Pratyahara: Meditation and Breathwork for a Deep Inner-Journey

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I want to talk about Pratyahara and offer a helpful breathing practice to accompany it. First I feel I need to give it a little context.

Yoga 101

Yoga is old. One of the earliest mentions of yoga comes from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest vedic texts dating somewhere around 1700–1100 BC. So, OLD.

Patanjali was a yoga scholar (some say a school of thought—doesn’t matter) around 200–500 CE who wrote a generalized guide to yoga called The Yoga Sutras. Sutra is a Saskrit word meaning suture or stitch. The Yoga Sutras are therefore 196 verses “stitched” together in order to create a larger patchwork of what yoga’s main goal is and how to practice it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali starts by defining yoga as the ability to calm the mind into stillness to arrive at a state of Oneness with all things. He outlines 8 limbs of yoga or ways to practice arriving at this Oneness. These 8 limbs are presented from gross to subtle ways to practice yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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The first limb is the Yamas or outward observances, the way we treat the world. If we’re assholes to everyone around us, we’re missing the essential point that somehow I’m everything and only hurting myself.

Second is Niyamas, or inner observances, the way I treat my inner comportment, my cleanliness, contentment, and ability for self-discovery through work and submission.

Third comes yoga Asanas, or the poses, how literally applying this knowledge to the body, mind, and spirit of my personal being and attempting to discover the unification of all of these. This is what most of us refer to when we think of yoga. That’s fine—you don’t have to start practicing at the beginning—whatever gets you onto the path.

Fourth, Pranayama refers to how this work affects one’s energy through breathwork and other energy manipulation through the chakras, or primary energy stations located along our spine.

Fifth, and this is what I want to talk about most today, come Pratyahara or gaining control over external influences and learning to withdraw from our senses as the entrance into the inner-being.

Photo by  Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

Sixth is Dharana, or fixed concentration on one thing.

Seventh, Dhyana, deeper concentration where you begin to lose your sense of individuality and the object you’re observing start to merge.

Lastly the eights limb is Samadhi, or the state of Oneness.

So now you’ve got probably more information than you need about yoga philosophy and ancient texts, what does this Pratyahara business have to do with me?

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ve likely tried at least a few ways of meditating and discovered one or two ways that really help you to go deep into your meditation, where something begins to happen and we start to get that meditation hit that everyone is talking about. In part, this ability to go deeper into ourselves starts with Pratyahara.

The senses are a wonderful tools of cultivating presence. Paying attention to our senses help us wrangle in our wild and wandering mind to a state that is here and now. We’ve used our senses perhaps with the “There Is” Practice or similar practices. However, getting stuck into this mode of paying attention to what is outside maintains external attention and might prevent a deeper inner-journey. So, learning to move beyond our senses inward to a state of raw here-and-now-ness may deepen your meditation practice.

Your senses are always firing and constantly giving the brain information. In fact, there’s so much information happening all the time, that our brains have to learn to filter and select what is essential and what it can turn off. Pratyahara experiments with learning to turn ALL the senses off to find a state of deeper inner-awareness on our pathway to discover that the answers are within instead of outside of us.

To to practice Pratyahara start by listening to your senses and then go inward beyond them.


Breathing Practice to Complement Pratyahara

Here’s a breathing practice followed by a meditation that can help you with just this

Brahmari: Bumble Bee Breath

Brahmari breath is kinda weird so bear with me. What you do is sit, close your eyes, and place your hands on your face with your index fingers over your eyebrows, your middle fingers covering your eyes, fourth fingers just below your nostrils, and little fingers under your lips. Your fourth and fifth fingers therefore create a cradle around your mouth. Your thumbs gently plug your ears. This closes all the exits, except your nostrils. Now, you release your pinkies to take in a big breath through your mouth, replace your pinkies and close your mouth and let out a long hum until you have no more breath. When you’re empty, breathe in again and do another round. Continue for several rounds. Have fun with this: try high pitches, low pitches, make up little tunes— whatever. Ideally, you’ll drown out all other senses except the sound of your own humming in your head.

You may also choose to omit the crazy hands-to-face business and use earplugs and an eye mask—less adventurous but probably just as effective.

This practice will confirm to your neighbors peeping through the windows that yes, you finally have gone nuts and that they should probably look for another neighborhood. Better just to have some private space to do this.

After several minutes of this, keep your eyes closed and choose a meditation that cultivates a strong internal focus, something like mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation.

I might suggest using the Insight Timer and setting your timer for 20 minutes using an interval bell to ding after 5 minutes. Do the Brahmari breath for 5 minutes and after the interval bell dings, try a mantra or mindfulness meditation for the remaining 15 minutes.

This will be a great 20 minute practice to really cultivate inner-focus.

If you’re curious, give this a shot and let me know how it goes.

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Seeing the Finger of God: New Directions in Jazz

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In 2003, I attended a life-changing concert—Herbie Hancock teamed up with other jazz greats such as Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove in a quintet to celebrate the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, both of whom would have turned a heavenly 77 that year. The two horn players chosen to honor those dead gods of Jazz have themselves now passed on, Brecker in 2007 and Hargrove in 2018, and can count themselves in the numbers of saints who come marching in.

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

Whether yoga asana or jazz, both modes point to that Oneness of being we all share. Both point to and celebrate spirit. The following is a story about this pointing.


Holy


It was Spiritual. There was a moment in the concert when the horns were off stage allowing the rhythm section to solo. The concert hall was dark except for three dim spotlights, each illuminating a musician on stage. Herbie Hancock was hunched over his keys popping dissonant chords like ice on a red-hot stove. John Patitucci's fingers blurred and tangled as they whirred around the fretboard of his double bass. The drummer was nimbly tap-dancing around his set. Popping, clinking, banging, like someone rummaging through a junk drawer. Then, each musician began to play as if oblivious to the other musicians. All three seemed to abandon the song's underlying structure, the musical map that makes playing together possible. They were alone, lost and consumed in the rite of making their own art. Time began to slip away and it became more of an abstract idea than a perceptible pulse. Impossible to find a down-beat.

The music floated like this for eternally long minutes. I could see the music personified on the furrowed brows and grimaces of the musicians. Their notes were together turbulent, raging, furious, and at times lackadaisical. I drifted with the music. Despite the musical trip, however, something was gnawing at me. It was my rational mind wondering how the music could possibly come back together from this entropy, this chaos. I could see no signs that the musicians were following any sort of map in the song's structure. How would the horns know when to come in and start the melody again, the head? How would the rhythm section come back together? And with these questions, my eyes fixed upon the musicians, hypnotized to the scene before me. Afraid to miss a single note, I stared wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next. Minutes and seconds had ceased.

And after an age, suddenly the horns were back on stage. Without a word, and without a cue, without a gesture, not even a glance, the rhythm section simultaneously aligned to a slow, swung 4/4 meter at the precise fraction of a second that both sax and trumpet blew a soft, low, singular, note. The timbre of this note could not be discerned by the nature of the instruments; it was both sax and trumpet. A third horn. A new name. Invisible but right in front of me. And with this new horn they began the head.

All five were playing as individuals, carving out their own signature and personalities with their instrument. Yet despite the apparent autonomy, chaos, and dissonance, every sound by each musician originated from the same steady beat of one shared heart. It is this heart that makes the maps and this heart that sews the musicians together with an invisible thread. My soul was witnessing a miracle. As I watched and heard them play, I was sensing this shared, invisible heart. I was seeing the finger of God.

So What


Like the music, the concert itself had underlying form and context. It was like a séance, summoning Miles Davis and John Coltrane from the grave back to the terrestrial stage, luring them with their own music. In the spirit of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Herbie's quintet played the music like Miles and Trane would have played it—decidedly different than Miles and Trane would have played it. Different was the context.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane have always been mysteries to me. Mysteries because the beautiful yet complex music they created during their spin on this globe were only facsimiles of what was written on their souls and in their minds. Each time I listen to a Miles or Coltrane record, I search for clues about what was in their souls. Where was their genius. Their records are only blueprints, but by studying these blueprints, someday I hope to hear what their souls were calling out to the world—to me. For now, though, I am a young student to the world of jazz and only have ideas of what these geniuses were singing. Most of it remains a mystery to me.

I WILL BE YOUR LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS

Directions_in_Music.jpg

To miss the Herbie Hancock Quintet, billed as Utah's hottest jazz event of the year, was almost reason enough to pass up the invitation to go and teach English in Korea for a year. I went to Korea. I arrived as winter was setting in and after a few long, cold months in this new and foreign world of Korea, I finally got a weekend off. While on a bumpy train headed south to sunnier Busan, I happened to notice an ad hidden in the corner of an English newspaper. It announced that in two weeks, the Herbie Hancock quintet would be in Seoul performing the same concert I had missed in Utah. I almost jumped out of my seat with surprise and joy. The Universe likes to spoil me from time to time.

Providence may have brought Herbie Hancock to Korea but I still had my work cut out for me if I wanted to go to the concert. First I had to get a ticket. This was before buying your ticket on the internet was really a thing. My Korean pair-teacher, Eun-hee, my tag-team partner in the MMA ring of teaching children, made several necessary phone calls to Seoul and spent a lot of time helping me secure a ticket. She even paid for my ticket using her own bank account to wire the money. I paid her back in cash. Without a Korean speaker, getting a ticket would have been nearly impossible.

Even after the arduous task of procuring a ticket, it took several days and much drama, to cover my classes. The decision to allow me to go and ask other teachers to take my classes went all the way to the director of our school. Despite the fact that I already had my ticket, ultimately going to see Herbie Hancock was in his hands. He was concerned about the school's constant shortage of native English-speaking teachers. After several days of deliberation he finally he acquiesced and allowed me to go.



PILGRAMAGE


With a ticket waiting for me in Seoul, I taxied to Yousong, a part of town in Daejeon where I was living, and bought my bus ticket to Seoul. While waiting for the bus to leave, I found a bakery. There was nothing good, so instead I went outside and sat on the edge of a shadow in the hopes of catching the last rays of a tepid sun. I faced the sun, closed my eyes and let it penetrate my closed eyelids. I drank it.

During my two and a half hour ride to Seoul I read Dostoevsky's words of devils and angels, saints and sinners, of children. I read of Devils becoming angles. It reminded me that the Universe is mostly good with some interesting variations of good that some call “bad” thrown into the mix.

With only a small day pack stuffed with Karamazov, a subway guide, and my toothbrush, I arrived in Seoul and then hopped onto the subway to make my way to the stop nearest Kung Hee University, the concert venue. As I stepped from the subway station, the winter afternoon met me with a bitter chill. It was cold and sunny, bright and sharp. The oblique rays of the afternoon sun did little to chase away the goose bumps on my skin.

I walked around busy Seoul streets for a while following signs to Kung-hee University. After asking several times for directions I finally arrived at the university. After several more requests for directions to the concert hall, I finally found my the long awaited destination of my pilgrimage. As I walked up a hill I saw the concert hall standing before me like a giant. It was designed after a renaissance cathedral. It looked like Westminster Abbey to me.

Kyunghee University Grand Peace Hall

It had stained glass windows and large, ornate doors, arched ceilings, etc. Its two towers reached high into the deep blue sky like arms to heaven.
Considering all my trouble of getting the ticket, I couldn't shake the pessimistic feeling that somehow, something would prevent me from going to the concert. I had to get my ticket in my hand before I'd believe I was going to see Herbie Hancock in concert. Entering the giant front doors, my lone footsteps echoed off the marble floors as I walked in search of someone who could give me my ticket. A nice woman told me in broken English that they would not being to issue tickets until six. It was only four thirty. Okay, maybe I was a little paranoid. But before leaving to look for a motel room for the night, I decided to look inside the enormous hall to see what it looked like.

Inside I saw a man on the stage warming up on a stand-up bass. Someone in a sound booth above my head shouted to the bassist to plink and on the piano a bit to get a reading. To my complete amazement, Herbie Hancock, having been summoned by his own instrument, walks onto the stage carrying a folder with his music. He was impossible to mistake; impeccably dressed: hip, thick rimmed glasses, a dark suit over a deep purple shirt, and a monotone tie —stylish, modern, but not loud. Herbie replaced the bassist on the piano. I was sitting in the front row of the hall, only fifteen feet from Herbie Hancock! Then it dawned on me that I was about to get a personal, pre-concert concert.

The bass player/part-time piano plinker turned out to be John Patitucci, a highly acclaimed bass player and bandleader billed for this tour. I was surprised at the obsequious deference he gave Herbie. After all, he's no rookie. Moreover, he'd been touring with Herbie for more than a year, and after a year of playing with someone, I assumed that they'd be chummy. Perhaps the marking of a true student is one who recognizes the master.

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

Then the sound check began. Herbie and John pulled out the sheet music that Herbie toted onto the stage and together they penciled in some changes, analyzing the music meticulously, note by note, measure by measure. Later in the performance, when they came to that reworked spot, I'd never have guessed that they hadn't been born playing it perfectly.

Soon, Michael Brecker—rigid, tall, quiet— walked onto the stage, saxophone in hand. He stood listening to the rhythm section and would often play a head or a solo to give context to the rhythm sections chords. A few minutes later on swaggered the trumpet player Roy Hargrove. He was as laid back and cool as they come. He sat, so lazily that he almost lay, on a stool a couple paces away from the band. This acted as sort of his ring corner when the rhythm section or Brecker was going at it. He sat listening, lost in his own thoughts, and raised his trumpet to play when the music called for it.

Once during the sound check, the rhythm section was plowing through some chords and Roy Hargrove pulled up his horn and played a line. To me it sounded like any regular jazz line but Michael Brecker broke his frozen stance and burst out with a guffaw, looked over to Roy Hargrove, and shouted, "Good one!" Roy was telling jokes on his trumpet. I wished I understood the punch line—musically esoteric. A few minutes later, still in a joking mood, Roy Hargrove began a solo, this time using the melody to Kenny Rogers's country hit, The Gambler.

During the sound check, I had the rare chance to witness not only these musicians' music, but more importantly I got to see their personalities, raw and exposed in a way that is impossible in front of a crowded concert hall. Herbie was funky, funky, funky, like an old southern woman cooking fried chicken on the porch. Herbie had wonderful blues face: a painfully blissful grimace evoked by the music.

Michael Brecker was stiff, reserved, tall, foreboding, and looming. I could sense that he has secrets going on behind his quiet eyes. By this time, he was experiencing the deleterious effects of Leukemia.

Roy Hargrove was there to play. He's got secrets, too but he's so hip, he knows that even he doesn't even understand them.

John Patitucci has a happy, kind face. He's defining characteristic is his virtuosity on his bass. Still, he isn't trying to prove anything. He just does it and does it damn well.

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

The drummer (I forget his name) was a great drummer—a furry but never over bearing. He knew his place. He was actually a replacement for Brian Blade, the regular drummer who couldn't finish the tour.

I also had the chance to see them carve into and analyze the music, measure-by-measure, analyzing chords, rhythms and harmonics. They talked about the music as if they were seeing it for the first time. Everyone offered suggestions and they penciled them in.


After two hours of this pre-concert concert, the ushers shoed me out. By now it was late enough that I was able to get my ticket from the ticket office, which I stashed safely away in my wallet. I felt like I was Charlie Bucket finding a golden ticket.

The concert still didn't start for an hour and I hadn't found a motel room for the night. It was dark outside as I left the concert hall. The cold blew through my canvas coat unmercifully. Walking down the busy streets near the university, it didn't take long to see that the neighborhood of Seoul I was in was more suited to a nightclub a nice, clean motel. As I began to walk, I realized that I hadn't eaten since breakfast and instead of worrying about a motel, I concentrated on getting something to eat. I decided on pizza. Unfortunately, it was only a take out restaurant, so I took my pizza next door to Baskin Robins and ate it sitting at a one-person table. I wasn't in the mood for ice cream but I needed to rent a table so I bought a jr. cup of Chocolate Brownie and watched it melt as I ate my small pizza.

I finished dinner and headed back through the crowded streets to the concert hall. I walked back into the lobby of the concert hall, which was teaming by now with hundreds of people. I saw Herbie Hancock CDs for sale (recorded at an earlier concert) and without hearing a note, I had to have one. I couldn't help myself.

The concert was only minutes away. I entered the hall and easily found my seat in the back of the hall on the ground level. As I sat there, an island in the sea of this great hall, I relaxed and mused on fact that everything had fallen into place. Eventually, the lights dimmed and the band came out onto the stage. The crowd roared with applause. As soon as the lights began to dim, I followed about 50 other cheap ticket buyers, and bolted for an empty seat closer to the stage.


HYMN

The concert was flawless. The musicians' communication must have been very subtle because throughout the entire concert, no one spoke a word, no one nodded or gave any sort of cues, but all five were in sync the entire time, playing exactly at the right time when someone's solo finished, or when there was a segue into another song, or when the timing suddenly changed to something very abstract.


Herbie played elegantly and assertively dissonant. He was Herbie Hancock: funkiness embellishing polished musical prose. Over the almost 6 decades that he's been playing music, Herbie, like Miles and Coltrane, has invented many of the contemporary rules of jazz. Much of the joy of this evening was the rare pleasure of seeing a master of masters at work and watching him have so much fun doing it.

The entire concert had a Herbie flavor. Herbie was the roux in the gumbo, holding it all together.

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

I loved Roy Hargrove's playing. It was heartfelt, cool, and at times manic. He wasn't trying to be a diva. He wasn't trying to be another Miles Davis. Roy was an interpreter, expressing in his own language what he read from blueprints to the soul THE master of jazz. He was Roy Hargrove putting a spin on Miles tunes. The spin was the point. Miles spun.

One my favorite songs of the night was a song that Roy Hargrove wrote, called The Poet. It honors Miles and tells an emotional musical story about Miles' character. When Roy took his solo, I was particularly honed to what Roy was saying with his trumpet. As he played, he told me: if you look in your heart, look deep inside, look way down, keep going deeper, and listen really carefully, amid the discord of life you will find the answer to what you are looking for. You'll find the peaceful and beautiful melody of your deepest inner soul. But be patient and diligent because it will be fleeting; nonetheless, be privy to it. It's there and it's the peace and joy that always resides in you.

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

Michael Brecker was the greatest surprise. I had never seen him play and from what I judged of his personality during the sound check, he seemed more like an emotionally repressed corporate lawyer or stockbroker than an expressive sax player. But when he sprang for a solo during the concert, he really sang from his soul; he didn't just play notes. Somehow both his contemplative stage presence and his wildly expressive solos portends his death 4 years later. Michael Brecker died January 13, 2007. The fact that I was able to see this modern sax genius is now invaluable to me.

He really showed his soul and mastery of his instrument during his solo piece, Naima, the infamous and signature Coltrane ballad. At one point during Naima, it sounded like Michael Brecker wasn't even blowing into his horn but rather screaming into it, his eyes squinted shut, his fingers ripping up and down the keys. I was amazed that someone so apparently closed could express so earnestly and honestly.

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

John Patitucci was a storyteller with his music. At the beginning of So What/Impressions, the rest of the band left the stage and gave John 10 minutes alone to tell his story. He sounded and looked like he was praying—pouring his heart out to God as he plucked deep, warm, notes from his strings.

John showed me that music is like a novel or a play—full of wit, rhetoric, surprises, and plot twists. As he was hunched over his bass, his fingers were plucking out his story, and it felt like he was leading us through a gothic castle by the light of a candle, showing the tapestries, the candelabras, the great halls. During his tour, suddenly and without any notice, he jumped hard on a low and inharmonic note. It startled me, like he was throwing open closet door with a skeleton inside. Surprises.

CODA


The band played for two and a half hours and finished with two encores. As the house lights came on people began to shuffle to the doors. I was in awe of what I'd just seen. I was glad I was alone because I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was speechless. I eventually left my seat and entered the already packed lobby. But before going out the door and leaving to find a motel, something inside me said, "Stop. Just be in this moment. Something is going to happen . . . " And there I stood, looking at ornate architecture of the concert hall, my mind poring over the concert and I wondered how I could put it all into words.

I hadn't paused for more than two minutes when my attention focused on a nearby crowd of about 10 people. They were gathering around the stage manager who had just came from back stage. I remembered him from the sound check. I heard the stage manager say to them in English, "I'll ask Herbie if he has time to see you," after which there was brief silence, a quick Korean translation by one better English speakers followed by an outburst of undefiled giddiness. I didn’t know who these giggling girls were but I decided that under no circumstances was I going to not somehow accompany them to see Herbie Hancock. A few minutes later, the stage manager came back and announced to them that they could come back inside the concert hall and after Herbie finished talking to a reporter, they could go backstage and meet them. I simply melted into their numbers as they slipped back through the auditorium doors to wait for the chance to go backstage. They were quite an intimate crowd and it wasn't long before they noticed the stray white guy hanging around. Instead of pushing me away, though, they warmly befriended me.

Apparently, they were part of an organization that is based loosely around Buddhism and celebrates world peace through music. They said that Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (sax player and musical brother of Herbie for many decades) are among the organization's principle and most prestigious members. My new friends admitted that none of them knew Herbie Hancock's music very well. In fact, they admitted that they were only recently trying to learn to appreciate jazz so as to support Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. It was the first jazz concert that any of them had ever been to.

During the 15 minutes that we were waiting for the stage manager to come back, I swapped email addresses with at least five people as others flashed photos of me. I was the exotic stray white guy.

Eventually, the stage manager came back and said that we could go back stage. We rushed down back hallways to a posh and dimly-lighted waiting room. Herbie was standing, talking to a reporter as a photographer busily flashed photos. Roy Hargrove, in his usual stance, half sat, half lay on a low plush chair near the wall. He looked like he'd just hopped out of a hot tub after a hard day's work—spent. His long dreads were covered by an enormous bini and he was wrapped in a gray, wool, New-York-style coat that came to his knees.

My rule against pestering celebrities for autographs was overridden by the magnitude of this moment. Having unwrapped my CD and removed the insert, I timidly approached Roy Hargrove. I couldn't help but sound like an obsequious snail as I peeped out, "Mr. Hargrove, your music was very spiritual to me." He looked at me for a moment and paused, a little surprised by my words. "Thank you," another pause. "Thank you." I could sense that this was the end of our meaningful conversation and so I asked, "Would you please?" as I handed him a pen and the cd insert. He said nothing, only flashed his autograph across my insert. I thanked him and he nodded back in a tired response, only the way a jazz cat can.

I saw the drummer (damn, I wish I remembered his name) lingering about and he politely signed my cd sleeve.


Now Herbie was done talking to the reporter and my newly adopted family, the family of the jazz challenged, was showering him with flowers and gifts and snapping photos. He smiled and happily spoke to us as a group. Even after his long performance, Herbie was amicable and appreciative of our praise. He gladly signed autographs and smiled as he smelled each bouquet that was thrust into his arms. All I could do was stand there as part of the crowd. I wanted to blurt out, like a puberty stricken high school kid, "Herbie! even if these people don't know Hancock from Handel, I know you to be a musical legend and I understand this concert in context of the last 50 years of jazz and modern music. Thank you for this concert. It is a dream come true!" My thoughts must have been printed on my forehead because just as he said he couldn't sign any more autographs, he took my cd sleeve, signed it, and graciously bowed out.

HA! Triumph! I couldn't believe this was happening to me.

Michael Brecker was standing talking to some other stage managers, and understandably loathing us for keeping Herbie, and therefore him, from heading back to the hotel and getting some sleep. His was the only autograph I was missing. I had to do it. So I approached him and told him that I loved his music and that I was a saxophonist as well. I told him he was an inspiration. Without a word, he signed my cd sleeve. Cold. The way he looks. I don't blame him. I'd be annoyed too.

THE LONE AND DREARY WORLD


We watched the band leave and then we followed out the same doors. It had begun to snow. The wind had picked up and it was colder than before. My new friends began to ask me what my plan was for spending the night. I told them about where I planned to search for a motel. They informed me that I probably wouldn't find anything there and that they would take me to a stop on the subway where I could find good, inexpensive lodging.

jimjillbang.jpg

We hopped on the subway and chatted for the 25 minutes it took us to get to our stop. They walked me to a bright, clean jim jill bong (a 24-hr spa. . . kind of) where for six bucks you can bathe, exercise, watch TV, use the internet, eat, sing karaoke, get electronic chair massages (that was fun) or just lounge and talk to your friends and family. The jim jill bong also had communal sleeping rooms, separated for men and women.

I changed into the issued t-shirt and shorts and then sat on a mat in the corner with my journal and tried to write down as many of my feelings as possible. By now it was about 1 am and the desire for sleep soon clouded my thoughts. I grabbed a foam pillow and took a corner of the sleeping room. Other men's snoring made real sleep impossible, but I was able to take a series of short naps, which helped.

The next day, I caught a train back to Daejeon. During the two-hour train ride home, I stared out the window and thought about my entire miracle of hearing the music, meeting the band, and meeting these new friends.


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Yoga Nidra Meditation: Does Your Inner 3-Year-Old Need to Go Nighty Night?

Who else can relate to the this . . .

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My 3-year-old has two settings— turbo and asleep.

One evening last summer, he was spraying the driveway with the hose. When we told him that he had to stop spraying because it was his bedtime, he became absolutely undone with emotion. He erupted into screams of anger, morphed into an inconsolable sadness, then began desperate pleading, which then cycled back to anger, more sadness, (this time accompanied with a slumped-over super-sad walk) and more pleading . . . This went on for several minutes making a performance that could have earned him a Tony Award.

I remember standing there unphased, merely watching this drama play out. As the adult with a grander perspective, not only did I not have to get pulled into his emotion, but my heart opened up to him. I could see this situation for what it was: he’s a 3-year-old ball of raw emotion. I understood that because it was his bedtime, he was very tired and crankiness gets amplified when you’re tired. I also had the perspective that his whole world at that moment was spraying the driveway and now his world had ended because of something as arbitrary as bedtime. But thanks to my adult perspective, I could simply observe his tantrum without having an opinion about it.

Minutes later, my son was sleeping peacefully in his bed.

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Krishnamurti, one of the preeminent yoga minds of the last century, said it best when he proffered that “The highest form of intelligence is observation without assessment.” He’s saying that our highest Self is one that can merely witness something and not react to it.

“Yeah, that’s great when you’re observing your kid throw a fit, but how to you learn to not have an opinion about your own serious adult emotions like stress, worry, or anxiety?” The answer is perhaps easier than you think: observation through relaxation.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m not minimizing these serious emotions. It’s like when you’re worked up into a lather over something and someone rather gratuitously says, “Hey, just relax.” And how often do you then pause, drink in that sage advice, and emerge smiling from immediate relief? Never, because it’s stupid, completely unhelpful, advice.

Like Einstein said, “No problem can ever be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” You’ve got to change your state to make any kind of progress forward on a problem.

If you’ve read my blog or emails for long you know how much I love the relaxing from of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. I Love Yoga Nidra because it brilliantly changes your state of consciousness by using relaxation and observation to arrive at your highest intelligence, or True Self. Your True self is like the adult part of you with the grand perspective that can simply observe without yielding to the 3-year-old part of you with all it’s of its emotions, reactions, and drama.

In fact, relaxation isn’t just merely the byproduct of Yoga Nidra. It’s the special sauce that performs the impossible. Not only can you learn to witness emotions rather than getting sucked in by them, but with Yoga Nidra you also learn that it’s the emotions themselves which are the catalyst that bring you to experience your True Self, that place of boundless equanimity, empowerment, and perspective. Through relaxation, Yoga Nidra changes your consciousness and illuminates your adult perspective which sees everything in your life for what it is: information.

Modern psychology supports this idea of relaxation being the game-changer for state change and stress reduction. Important discoveries during the last century have shown that a person cannot feel both stress and relaxation simultaneously. Therefore, in a state of deep relaxation like in Yoga Nidra, one might skillfully and gradually begin to introduce stressors like emotions into your awareness, but because you’re deeply relaxed, you’ll find that you can merely observe the emotions or stressors and see them as information. You counter-condition against stress and soon begin to identify as the all-seeing calm adult rather than the myopic tantrumy 3-year-old.

This is huge!

What’s more, simply observing an emotion without reacting to it can often break the insidious, downward-spiral that emotions can sometimes inflict on our psyche. In just a few minutes of a skillfully-guided Yoga Nidra practice, you may begin to experience your own “highest intelligence” and begin a new relationship with your emotions.

Simply put, when you practice Yoga Nidra, you put your inner 3-year-old to bed. Maybe that’s why everyone falls asleep during Yoga Nidra. Don’t worry, it still works even when you sleep, cuz the part of you that I’m speaking to is something beyond your rational mind and is always paying attention.

Click the button below to listen to this free Yoga Nidra practice I created called Awakening Through Body and Emotions. It’s designed to help you become very relaxed in your body before leading you through some fairly benign emotions to help you see past emotions and experience your True Self. It’s about 30 minutes long and I’d love to hear back from you about your experience. I also set this to some original chill music: me playing the clarinet with a drone in the background. I hope you like it.

Also, if this topic of using relaxation and observation to rejigger your relationship to emotions resonates with you, this is what my entire 6-week Yoga Nidra series will be about starting THIS Sunday at 9 am MST. This is a virtual Yoga Nidra series (live and online) where we will be exploring the theme, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion, to learn to access the inner adult inside of you for your own change of consciousness and to experience your own boundless equanimity and learn to witness things like emotions. Please join me!

Each session will be recorded and transcribed so if the time doesn’t work for you, you can always catch the session at a time that works for you. Check out the details below

6-Week Virtual Yoga Nidra Series

January 20–February 24

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

By the end of this course you’ll be ready to teach Yoga Nidra!

Meditation/Mindfulness with Eating

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Meditation vs. Mindfulness

Photo by Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

There's a distinction between meditation and mindfulness.

I'd qualify mindfulness as the act of being present with whatever task is at hand. Indeed meditation is an acute form of mindfulness but usually constitutes a more rigorous form of concentration or awareness. Regular meditation practice causes us to live in a very mindful way, doing regular kinds of things with more presence. Things like eating.


Presence Through Senses

Many meditation traditions and philosophies argue that our identity relies solely upon our ability to be present. If we are not present, we really don't exist. Surely there's a lot to chew on there, but the essence of that idea is that our True Nature relies upon being here and now, no matter what you're doing.

Our senses are an excellent way of practicing presence because they are constantly giving us real time information about what is happening right in the moment. One of the particularly delightful ways of practicing mindfulness is through what we do hopefully at least a few times a day: eating.


Not only does eating involve all of our sense, it is perhaps the most intimate thing we do on a regular basis besides making love. Why not make love to your food? And like any good lover will tell you, it's no good unless you're present.

I think food is fascinating. In fact, one of my favorite classes in college was called A Feast of Food Ways and was an entire semester exploring the folklore around food. We explored what food means culturally, spiritually, and globally. Not only was that semester a feast of information, but we literally treated ourselves to tantalizing delights in every class. That class made food such a sensual subject that I don't think I'll ever look at the ritual of eating food ever again.


Food Ritual

6-Week Online Yoga Nidra Series

Starts Jan. 20, 0219

So, why not make eating a ritual? A ritual is a physical action that evokes a spiritual significance. If eating is the sustaining of our very being, how can eating NOT be a ritual? How could we ever absentmindedly shove Cheerios into the largest hole in our face while not tasting a thing and checking our Facebook profile? With presence, even a bowl of Cheerios could be a feast.

One of my friends said that the best meal he ever ate was a granola bar on mile 20 of an ultra- marathon. It's all about presence and context, right?

So why not make your next meal and every meal, a seance of seduction, a ritual of resplendence? All it takes is a little bit of mindfulness.


How To Eat Mindfully


  • Unplug. Put away your phone and turn it on silent. No reading, computer work, or television during meals.

  • Sit. Put with your feet on the floor. This grounds you and helps to put you into the moment.

  • Pause. Take a big breath and give yourself a moment of gratitude before plunging into your meal. Notice the smells, textures, and colors. Perhaps even contemplate the hands and energy it took to arrive at your table, including the miracle of Mother Earth growing it for you.

  • Taste. As you put it into your mouth, close your eyes for a moment and taste it the way a sommelier would taste it: notice its signature of the earth, the subtleties and varieties of favors. Can you name all the different ingredients? Feel the textures and temperatures.

  • Slow down. Chew your food and wait until you've swallowed before putting another small bite into your mouth.

  • Notice when you begin to feel sated and stop eating before you start to regret shoving that last bite into your pie whole.

  • If you have a moment after your meal, take a slow stroll. My Ayruvedic teacher taught me to take a 1000-step stroll after each meal. She also told me to eat until only 2/3 full and to eat what my body feels like it wants and craves rather that what I "should" eat (look up Ayruvedic diet information for eating tips for your constitution. My friend Sunny is an Ayruvedic practitioner and expert at such stuff. Contact her for a consult). Notice your level of satisfaction after each meal. A meal of candy bars feels terrible.

    I'd love to hear about your food rituals and what your experience is with mindful eating. Please leave a comment below.

Mantra Meditation Made Simple

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Photo by Scott Moore Copyright © 2019 Scott Moore Yoga LLC

Photo by Scott Moore Copyright © 2019 Scott Moore Yoga LLC

Today, I want to talk briefly about Mantra meditation. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which comes from the words Manis, meaning mind, and Tra, which is the beginning of the word to transcend. So, literally through your mind, you may transcend into deeper layers of knowing.

A mantra is simply repeating a word or phrase over and over again.

The idea is to loose yourself in the repetition of the words. I've done a lot of mantra practice and have found it very powerful. There is something magical that happens when you engage your soul in this way. Meditation is about focus. It's powerful to focusing on one word or phrase.

We all know words have power:

"In the beginning was the word."
The Bible John 1:1

"The pen is mightier than the sword."
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

"Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup."
The Beatles

There are thousands of mantras. Some mantras are chanted in Sanskrit, other Tibetan, others Latin, or whatever language you normally speak.

I want to share two of my favorite mantras.

The first evokes the Hindu god Ganesh. He's the remover of obstacles, the Lord of auspicious beginnings, and is the love-child of consciousness and form.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha.
This loosely translates into, "“Yo! Ganesh. I honor you and invite your power into my life."

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The next mantra I want to share with you is the Gayatri Mantra. It's one of the most popular and oldest mantras in the world.

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tatsaviturvareṇyaṃ
bhargo devasyadhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt

My favorite translation of this mantra is:
Everything on the earth and the sky and in between 
is arising from one effulgent source.
If my thoughts, words, and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this unity,
I would be the peace I'm seeking in this moment.

meditation mala beads

Give it a try!

Choose one of these mantras, or one of your own. It could be a simple phrase or even one word. Set your timer on Insight for 15 minutes and repeat these words over and over again, out loud, for the entire time. 

If you are familiar with mala beads or prayer beads, you can hold your beads and every time you complete the chant, move your fingers to the next bead. Give it a try.

PS

Here’s a great article about using mala beads

Online Yoga Nidra Meditation Training: The Magic of Maya Working Through Illusion

Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

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We're well into the new year and I hope the sun is smiling on you, even if you live in a place where the sun doesn't raise the temp above freezing.

This year has been already so rich for me and every day I practice staying present to everything that arises, in part thanks to my 31-Day Meditation Challenge.

One thing I've learned is that meditation doesn't prevent things like emotions such as fear or anxiety from arising in me, but trains me to be cool with what does arise. It teaches me to welcome whatever comes my way, recognize it for what it is—no more no less. Ultimately it trains me to be merely the witness of that thing. Then, from that place of observation, I may choose to respond to the information rather than react. Strange how emotions like fear and anxiety seem to come around less and less when I stop resisting them and let them be what they are, mere bits of information.

I'm still human, though, and once in a while I might still lose my $#1€, but the more I meditate, the less it happens.

So today, I want to share two things with you that are related to this idea of learning to observe emotions. I think you'll love them: My Yoga Nidra series coming up, and a fun story I wrote called Lessons in Fear…

First, I want to tell you how excited I am about my 6-week virtual Yoga Nidra series starting Jan. 20th called, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion.

Yoga Nidra is a relaxing and profound guided meditation aimed to help you experience your True Nature. The most essential premise of Yoga Nidra is that your True Nature is whole and perfect, a being of limitless power, boundless equanimity, with a cosmic perspective that has no need for worry. Anything in contrast to that is an illusion. But rather than trying to transcend illusion, what if you could actually use it to discover and experience your True Self?

One of the questions we'll explore in this course is, "What if emotions aren't 'real,' but just an illusion of reality and how do we actually use these illusions to uncover what is true and experience our True Self?"

This understanding is one of the things that Yoga Nidra has taught me and countless other people and what I want to offer to you through this this Yoga Nidra series.

This series will be 6 sessions, each around 75 min. During each session, I'll lead you through a verrrry relaxing Yoga Nidra practice (guided meditation), offer an engaging and thought-provoking teaching, and open the conversation to all for comments and questions.

I'll be recording each session and will be offering the recording and a transcript of it for review, or in case you have to miss a session you can watch or read it later.

One of the best features of this series is that you'll be in the comfort of your own home but joined virtually with me and other students all over the world.

In addition to access to the live classes you’ll also receive a Yoga Nidra digital library which includes:

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Become a qualified Yoga Nidra Teacher

  • Audio/Video recording of each of the sessions

  • A transcript of each of the sessions

  • Access to dozens of other Yoga Nidra recordings

  • Helpful tips and links to videos, recordings, books, and articles to expand your Yoga Nidra education

  • Clarinet Lullaby, a high-quality audio recording of me playing the clarinet set to ocean waves and a background drone for the purpose of deep relaxation and meditation.

You'll end the each session and the entire series with a deeper experience and understanding of the profound nature of your Self. Plus you'll have lifetime access to all the practices and materials.

In addition, Yoga Nidra also helps with:

  • Reduction or elimination of stress

  • Profound relaxation

  • A deeper, richer, and more present life

  • Spiritual growth and understanding

  • Greater presence in relationships, work, and the community

  • Greater mental clarity

  • Clear sense of purpose

  • Better sleep


It's like napping your way to enlightenment!

One of the things I love about Yoga Nidra is that ANYONE can do it.

Registration is now open! I can't wait for this to start. I'd love for you to join me. This really is a must-attend series that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

31-Day Meditation Challenge: Your Most Most Incredible 2019 Starts With This!

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

Meditation

You’ve indulged. You overate, you overdrank . . . and might just be feeling in sum: over it. Hopefully these next few days before the new year can be quiet and simple. Consider my up coming 31-Day Meditation Challenge.



The week between Christmas and New Years is actually a very special time. It’s that dead-of-winter time where you get to hibernate, meditate, and plant the seeds for what will live for you in the new year. What are you visualizing for 2019?



Power of Visualization

I have a faith in visualization that borders on religious—religious, because it work miracles, both in my life as well as the lives of millions of other people. My belief is simple: If you can see it, you can live into it.



Modern neuroscience agrees with me. Scientists say that the brain does not differentiate well between the images it translates through the eyes versus what it translates via thoughts, images, or ideas. Think about watching a thrilling movie— your heart pounds and your hands sweat, though your rational mind knows they are merely images on a screen.



This proposes a provocative idea: if your brain can’t differentiate well between reality and other images, why not visualize your ideal life and enjoy the feeling of success now? Speaking of seeing is believing, my wife has brilliantly constructed images set to music that reflect her ideal life using “mind movie” software, which she watches on a nearly daily basis to see where she’s directing her life.



Just like countless world-class athletes have shown, visualizing yourself succeed floods your system with all those feel-good and excitement chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin, just like if you had recently accomplished your dreams. It makes you perform at your peak. Plus, since seeing is believing, visualizing yourself succeed shuts off the amygdala, the part of your brain that puts the brakes on doing scary things like jumping out of airplanes, risking talking to your boss about a raise, or hell, quitting that soul-sucking job once and for all and stretching yourself to do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. In short, when you see yourself succeed, you live into your vision of it.


This is because you are truly more powerful than you can imagine. Most likely, the biggest thing holding you back from experiencing your own innate magnificence is your lack of vision for it. Do you ever get comfortable with “good enough,” lose your sense of purpose, or busy yourself so much as to distract your mind from what it truly makes you feel alive?



Well if so, starting today, that’s going to change. I invite you to join me for a revolutionary, 31-day meditative journey that gives you the tools and the support to visualize and live into your own magnificent life.


31-Day Meditation Challenge

We’ll start together on New Years Day with a guided and vivid visualization of what your incredible life looks and feels like. This meditation will relax your body and put your mind into a flow state that boosts your creativity, optimizes your learning, and inspires your productivity to work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Then, for the the entire month of January, you’ll meditate every day for 15 minutes a day. You’ll regularly revisit your visualization for the year as well as use any other form of meditation you like.



Once you register, you’ll get all the details for how the challenge works as well as information about several styles of meditation you can choose to do in addition to our New Year Visualization.


If you’re new to meditation, no problem. You’ll love this. If you’re an experienced meditator, great. We can use your meditation muscles to bolster the spirit of our group. Either way, this will be a fantastic opportunity to join a group of people all over the world benefitting the world with greater mindfulness. All month I’ll be sending you regular emails that offer instruction, support, and encouragement.



This will be fun, easy, and the perfect way to start 2019.


This 31-Day Meditation Challenge will also bless the lives of the people around you. In addition to visualizing an incredible life in 2019, regular meditation will also:

Yoga Nidra Meditation

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

Yoga Nidra Meditation
  • Lower your stress levels

  • Decrease your reactivity

  • Increase your mindful responsiveness

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reaffirm your sense of purpose

  • Give you personal and spiritual insight

  • Improve your overall happiness


Do this for yourself. Do this for those privileged (or not so privileged on those off days) to live around you.


This costs only $31. And guess what, if you complete the challenge, you may opt to GET. YOUR. MONEY. BACK. (drop the mic).


Please join today and share bless the world with a more-mindful YOU. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.


Happy New Year!


Meditation
Yoga Retreat Tuscany

Meditating on 2018 and 2019

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I can’t believe that we are wrapping up 2018. Damn, this has been a big year!

Wanderlust Hollywood

Truly some life-changing events happened including: Moving from NYC, hosting some breathtaking yoga, writing, and meditation retreats to Hawaii, Italy, Ireland, Idaho, and Utah, teaching classes, courses, workshops in NYC and SLC, attending a life-changing retreat to Costa Rica where I saw God, launching two online courses, published over 50 articles online, traveling internationally on a writing assignment, conducting my first silent meditation retreat, conducting two Yoga Nidra immersions, making a career-high monthly income, completing a 75-hour Vinyasa Flow training at Wanderlust Hollywood, and attending a mind-blowing Flow for Writers workshop by NYT Bestseller author, Steven Kotler.

Oh, and moving to Southern France.

Can I just pause and breathe for a second, maybe take a bite of this croissant and sip some Bordeaux . . . thanks. Much better.

Yoga Southern France
Yoga Southern France

I realize that much of what happened in 2018 was the result of a regular visualization and meditation practice. It was the product of regularly getting quiet, learning to listen to my heart, and visualizing what was possible. I strongly believe that if you see if you see it, you can live into it. Often what you visualize doesn’t play out exactly the way you planned—often it’s much better than what you planned.

Again, seeing is believing so by visualizing your goals for 2019 regularly you will literally begin to manifest them into your life.

Other benefits of regular meditation and visualization are:

  • Clarity of mind

  • Clarity of purpose

  • Calm and stress management

  • Greater compassion

  • Better sleep

  • Spiritual advancement



How was your 2018? What do you envision for 2019?


I challenge you to rise to your potential, to up-level your game, and to think big into 2019 by visualizing outrageous possibilities for yourself and then to grow into those possibilities with the help of a daily meditation practice.

Starting January 1st I’ll be hosting a 31-Day Meditation Challenge. Join me!

We’ll start with a visualization of an incredible 2019 which defies expectations. Then, for the next 31 days, you’ll meditate every day, affirming and materializing the visualization by building a foundation of mindfulness. After the month is over, you’ll already be launched into an incredible year.

Come on, this will be fun! There will be tons of us doing this together. Join us!

A group of meditators benefits the world in vast ways, bringing magnificence into the world like expanding ripples in a pond.



The Challenge:

Meditation Challenge

We’ll start the month with a powerful visualization (you can attend live or listen to a recording) of what’s possible for 2019. Then, all month I’ll send you support via emails with encouragement and instruction for meditating every day for 31 days for 15 minutes or more.

That's it.

We’ll be using a great meditation timer app called Insight Timer. This app has literally over 10,000 guided meditations to choose from that you can use to enhance your meditation practice.

Insight Meditation Timer

With the support of the group, you will have the encouragement and connection to tap into the power that happens when a collective of people are meditating together. Even if we are meditating at different times, the power of intention that connects us will empower you and enable your greatest benefit.

If you are new to meditation, this is a perfect way to start 2019 with a new life-long practice. I’ll send you easy, in-depth explanations, teachings, and follow up to demystify the art and science of meditation, and establish yourself firmly in your practice.

If you are an experienced meditator, this is also a perfect way to join this powerful collective to bring new heights to your practice and open nedoors and awarenesses.

While I will be sending out guided meditations for you to use, you can also choose any style of meditation you'd like. We will each be tracking our meditations every day using Insight Timer which will track your meditations, enable you comment to each other, and help you feel connected to meditators all over the world.

Once you register, you'll begin receiving emails and resources to encourage you and support you along the way, including teachings and explanations about visualizations and about the why and how of meditation.

Plus, you'll receive an invitation to some live group meditations via Zoom. In the app, you'll be able to see and comment to the others in our group who are also doing this 31-day challenge.

This next 31 days will positively formulate 2019, change your life, and benefit the lives of everyone around you!

Once you Register

Tuscany Yoga Retreat

Once you register, you'll receive a welcome email with information about:

  • Specifics of the challenge

  • Live meditation times

  • Many forms of meditation you might choose to do

  • Downloading the app

  • A catalogue of guided meditations, both my catalogue of recordings as well as literally thousands of others on Insight Timer, which you can keep to help support you on your meditative journey.

  • Receiving supportive emails

What does this cost?

I'm more interested in you building a powerful 2019, succeeding in your meditations, and the world becoming more mindful than I am making money, so here's what I'm offering:

The 31-Day Meditation Challenge costs $31, so that you'll commit to it. And everyone who completes the challenge – meditates every day for the 31 days using the app for 15 minutes or more – can opt to get a FULL refund of their tuition. No hassle. No questions.

So, essentially this is free! My deepest desire is that I don't make a dime on this project!

I invite you to visualize an outstanding 2019 and commit to your own personal, mental wellbeing. I know you can do it and I'll support you every step of the way. Join me!


Unique Tunings for Guitars

The Sound of Heaven

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Joni Mitchel.JPG

I play the sax, but the sound of the guitar does something profound to me. Guitars are a heavenly instruments because they rest against the chest, vibrate the heart, and teach us something profound about the resonance within all of us.

Earlier this year I was in a sacred ceremony where I was transported into a vision that will haunt me for the rest of my life. In the vision I was stabbed through the heart and Seneca, my wife, ushered me through the veil of dreams, first with pain and tears of loss, and then with ineffable joy as I reached a world of unspeakable beauty. Welcoming me into this eternal world of white was my 3-year old son Elio, but as an adult, playing me the most holy, beautiful, and intricate refrain on a guitar, his fingers blurring up and down its neck, his face in sacred concentration. The sounds of his guitar filled my heart with an indescribable rapture as tears streamed down my face for hours. I believe I will continue to hear and feel that sound for the rest of my life.

And no, he was not playing Stairway To Heaven.

Heart Strings

Some of the people I love most play guitar. One of them is my friend Megan. She’s happy, generous, and has a boisterous laugh that is positively infectious. Megan invites me and my family to stay with her when we are in Salt Lake City cuz she loves us, has the room, and understands our brand of crazy. She even smiles when Elio and her dog Javier—best friends, our man-pup and her canine-pup— chase each other through the house, barking, screaming, and working themselves into a blissful lather. Megan is the kind of person who knows how you like your coffee and has it waiting for you, hot and steaming on the kitchen counter when you wake up. Recently, when I arrived at Megan’s house to stay a few weeks while we figured out our move to France, she met me with a warm hug and a sincere, “Welcome home.”

The best room in Megan’s house is her living room. Built of warm wood and stone, it’s adorned principally with several hand-crafted guitars hanging on the wall or resting on floor stands, guitars that are meant to me handled and played. A defining moment in Megan’s life was when she was 12 years old and bought her first guitar from Acoustic Music in Salt Lake City. For the next 40 years, playing and collecting guitars would become her passion. At Megan’s house, it’s not uncommon after dinner for the party to move into the living room for an impromptu concert from Megan and anybody else who plays the guitar (which seems to be most of her friends), concerts which often stretch long into the night. And joining in the mix of musicians you might see Elio’s curious toddler fingers plucking a guitar or strumming a ukulele and pitching his little voice to the chorus.

Tuning

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that there are ghosts in Megan’s living room. That’s because a guitar is tuned at a particular frequency so that every time you strike an E string, for example, you get the same sound. And when I play my sax alone in that living room, surrounded by all those guitars, something other-wordly happens: I’ll pull my sax out of my mouth and hear a low hum of the note I just played coming from the guitars. It’s almost like there’s an invisible person in the room playing along. This phenomenon happens because when the strings on those guitars hear something vibrating at the same frequency in which they are tuned, when they hear someone singing their song, they automatically vibrate in tandem. They can’t help but sing along. This phenomenon is called sympathetic vibration.

We are all tuned in such a way that we come alive when we feel or hear or see something that is tuned like we are. We might resonate with a lover, a friend, or an idea. Certainly when Seneca sent me a text saying, “Hey want to go live in France for a while?” it resonated with me perfectly, so I harmonized with that question to the sound of, “Hell yes!” Have you ever been stuck at a crossroads, negotiating the many loud voices about which way to go, and a soft hum of truth vibrates somewhere deep inside of you and lets you know which way is right for you? That’s sympathetic vibration.

Maybe sympathetic vibration is why our family fell in love with Megan. Maybe sympathetic vibration is why after 40+ years it was most natural for Megan to buy not just another guitar from Acoustic Music, but the entire business. And maybe sympathetic vibration is why her store attracts so many big hearts to come inside with their need to play their 3 chords and the truth. Just listen to this left-handed guitar player, a vet who strolled in and sat down to play an original tune about healing from the war of feeling separate from one another. (Check out the video of him playing here), it’s haunting and beautiful.

If you’re tuned in a similar way, I invite you to go to Acoustic Music and sing your song. While you’re there, check out the wall o’ ukuleles and the homage to Joni Mitchell in the room with all the fancy guitars. Or just drop by to feel Megan’s generosity and to be surrounded by all those stunning guitars, those ghosts hanging on the walls.

Learning to Hear

Whether it’s guitars or something else, whatever rings true to you, learn to recognize those vibrations, know that sound.

I believe that yoga and meditation is about listening to how we are tuned. They are mechanisms that help us reduce the excess noise inherent in a busy life. As we listen, we start to vibrate in tandem with our deepest nature, and our most divine qualities will likely sing to the tone of patience, compassion, and love, because that’s how we are all tuned. Yoga and meditation are simply listening stations where we can hear the spirit our True Nature ring.

It is my personal practice to hear those things that resonate deep within me and to bravely organize my life to sing along.

One thing that vibrates like a ghost note inside of me is the inclination that someday I’ll buy Elio a guitar from Acoustic Music, that as he grows he’ll learn to play that guitar like a god, and that someday his music will guide me like a stairway to heaven.





Leaves Falling: The Beauty of Disillusion

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The following is a version of an article I wrote for Conscious Life News

 
Dogma of Fall Leaves

I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling.

To whom are we beautiful when we go?

~David Ignato


And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss.

A beautiful concept. A bittersweet truth. Perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent  funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.


Shiva Nataraj

Shiva

Many of the Hindu statues tell stories and offers insight which transcends dogma. The Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, is a storytelling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates his five acts which, in part, give understanding of death and dissolution. Through understanding the Shiva Nataraj, we too might understand "the beauty of leaves falling" as penned by poet David Ignato.

This statue depicts a person with several arms holding different tools, his hair on fire, body wreathed in flames, standing on an impish creature with one leg, and his other leg in motion.

Creation

In his first hand, Shiva holds a drum putting everything into motion through vibration. It's true that everything from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy, even the Universe itself, is in constant motion. As a musician, I love the idea of DJ Shiva laying down the backbeat that sets the Universe into motion. This represents the birth and spring in our lives and the events and circumstances therein.

Sustaining

His next hand holds a mudra or a gesture called the abhaya mudra. This Mudra is the power of sustaining. It's like Shiva is saying, "I've built this, now I'm supporting and nourishing it." For me this represents summer time when everything is in full bloom and thriving. It's also a reminder to be present, especially to our tendency to get attached to things when they are going well, or looking over our shoulder for the other shoe to drop. If possible be right in the moment as things are. The subtle message here is that things are in flux and don't get either attached or resist what's inevitably in flux.

Death and Disillusion

In his third hand, Shiva is holding a flame suggesting not to get too attached because just as soon as he will give birth to and sustain something, he'll also burn it down. This flame reminds you that not only does everything has a life cycle, but that even as things are changing and dying they do so as part of a perfect cycle. Shiva has no remorse about any of this, he simply stares straight ahead with a little grin as if to say, "This is what death looks like," meanwhile the beautiful fall colors are exploding in their passing.

Concealment

So, when you're at your lowest point, your house has just been razed to the ground and you're really hoping Shiva will give you a helping hand, he does just the opposite. His fourth arm is concealing his heart. At the moment when we are humbled and look to a higher power at our low points he covers his arm to say, "You don't learn heart of God for free." Sometimes this feels like just when you couldn't get any lower, you in fact do.

This lowest point is what Shiva is standing on, a little demon thing called the apasmara and represents the unrealized, naive or innocent part of ourselves. Shiva is standing on this representation of a part of ourselves, not in any way to be mean or spiteful, but rather as a way of literally taking a stand for our higher selves.


Revelation

Revelation Scott Moore Yoga

And once the old self has fully been put asunder, with the only limb left, Shiva last leg is swinging upward to invite you back into the a new and elevated cycle of new birth, sustainment, death and dissolution, concealment and revelation. Here is where everything is revealed and we continue to ride the circle in a spiral of evolution and growth. After such revolutions, there is no going back. And after several times around one might begin to start to expect the different cycles as they appear.

With the full picture in mind, whenever we encounter death, change, or dissolution we can resist it less and perhaps see if for what it is, one of the beautiful steps on our way to our full understanding being.

Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.

All night

under the pines

the fox

moves through the darkness

with a mouthful of teeth

and a reputation for death

which it deserves.

In the spicy

villages of the mice

he is famous,

his nose

in the grass

is like an earthquake,

his feet

on the path

is a message so absolute

that the mouse, hearing it,

makes himself

as small as he can

as he sits silent

or, trembling, goes on

hunting among the grasses

for the ripe seeds.



Maker of All Things,

including appetite,

including stealth,

including the fear that makes

all of us, sometime or other,

flee for the sake

of our small and precious lives,

let me abide in your shadow--

let me hold on

to the edge of your robe

as you determine

what you must let be lost

and what will be saved.




As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying.

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Yoga Nidra and The Holy Trinity: An Online or In-Person Yoga Nidra Retreat

I’m planning a special Yoga Nidra evening and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. This will be available either as an online Yoga Nidra offering or in-person, depending on where you live.

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Yoga Nidra

Click for other trainings, courses, and recordings.

Throughout history, three has always been a sacred number. Think of all the celebrated threes: body, mind, and spirit; earth, wind, and fire; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; Shiva, Shakti, and Ganesh; Buddha, Sangha, Dharma; Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato . . . the list is endless.

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There is something cosmic and mysterious about the concept of the Trinity. One is in isolation, two is a binary, but when you add a third dimension, you open to whole larger than the sum of its parts. It’s only by transcending a singularity or duality into a trinity that true vision occurs.

Perhaps the best way to explore, and even better to experience, this unity of the Trinity, and allow it to open our consciousness into a unity of all things, is through a particularly powerful form of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. The objective of Yoga Nidra is to open to a felt sense of Awareness, Oneness, or your True Self. One of the techniques to do this, is to explore deep and profound attention to the singularity, then the duality, and then to open to our Awareness, our True Nature, by inviting the holding of those two elements together to make a third, complete, and unified wholeness.

This isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s a practice and an experience.

I invite you to explore your own True Nature by experiencing a felt sense of Awareness through a special evening of Yoga Nidra. It’s easy but profound. Beginners and experts alike are welcome to join this special evening. This will be held at a beautiful residence nestled into the granite majesty of the Wasatch mountains, just a half mile up Little Cottonwood Canyon.

At this special event, we will have a discussion/lecture about the nature of the Trinity, how it appears throughout history, myths, and in our own practical lives. We will move and change our bodies through gentle yoga poses to become receptive to our deeper and True Nature. Then, we’ll experience some specialized breathing techniques to harmonize our energy. Finally we will enter into a profound and relaxing Yoga Nidra practice which is specific to this concept of the Trinity and which will take you into deeper relaxation as the portal into understanding some of the mysteries of the cosmos.

This evening of Yoga Nidra will be deeper and more specialized than a class at the studio.

After we will have a Q&A followed by a potluck dinner.

 
 
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online yoga nidra

You will receive an audio recording copy of the lecture, the movement and breathing practice, as well as the Yoga Nidra recording itself to continue plumbing the depths of your True Nature and expand your experience of your felt sense of Awareness.

Space is very limited. Virtual access available via Zoom if you don’t live in Salt Lake City. If you opt for virtual access you will also receive the recordings.

Saturday, November 17 5–8:30 pm Mountain Time $23

Beginners and experts welcome.

You’ll leave feeling relaxed, nourished, and with a grander vision of your life and your True Nature.


California Love

Sen and I have spent most of our lives living in Utah. In 2017, we were looking for something new. We wanted a challenge.

Right about April of 2017, Sen was offered a job to work in NYC. That seemed to fit the bill perfectly for a challenge and the we decided to move, despite the fact that we’d just moved into a new house (new for us, and the first one we’d bought together), we decided to say goodbye to Salt Lake City and head east.

This decision was very deliberate. I mean, I would be giving up my 15-year career teaching yoga in Salt Lake City, a place where I’ve been rewarded with scores of friends, loyal clients, and more teaching opportunities than I can accept. Regardless, I was hungry to know if what I did in Salt Lake City could translate to New York.

It did. But it was more complicated than that . . .

NYC was much more challenging than we thought. After about 9 months, Seneca was starting to wonder if we’d made the right decision. I’m the kinda guy who will stick out even a bad sitch long enough to play it all the way out to the end, for better or worse. I wanted to stick it out for a while, mostly because I was just starting to get some traction in the yoga world.

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One of the studios I practiced at and audition for was Kula. Their commitment to a solid yoga practice with good, smart alignment added to a solid structure but dedicated to fun, creative sequencing was perfect for my personal style of practice and teaching. I particularly loved going to Nikki Vilella’s classes. She offered a no-bullshit, solid class that showcased her expert teaching, great assists, but without any showboating or diva vibes.

I asked to if I could possible get onto their sub list. Nikki arranged an audition for me and after gave me some really solid feedback. I’ve been teaching for so many years, and even giving feedback to other teachers regularly with my Teacher Mentor Program but it had been a while since I’d received good feedback about my own teaching from someone who is an expert teacher. Nikki said that while I was a great teacher, that my assists were very strong, but that I simply needed to learn the “Kula Way.” She suggested that I take the 30-hour “Kula Way” training they offer periodically, simply to understand the branded way in which the studio likes to their teachers to format classes.

Not long after this I went to Costa Rica for a retreat and had an incredible revelation that if NYC wasn’t happening for my woman, it just wasn’t happening. Don’t get so attached to NYC and try something new. I’d have to put the Kula training on hold.

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Once we decided that New York wasn’t the right fit for us, we took a trip to L.A. Seneca spent a good part of her childhood in L. A. and has always considered herself a Californian at heart. We found that L. A. really fit us well—it seemed exciting and available to us. As per Nikki’s suggestion I found the sister-studio to Kula called Wanderlust in Hollywood and fell in love with it, not surprisingly because it was opened with, Schuyler Grant, the woman who opened Kula. I took class from Matt Phippen who was again right up my alley. I introduced myself to him and said there’s a good chance I’d be coming to L. A. He suggested I do the Wanderlust equivalent to the “Kula Way” training, a 75-hour, week-long training that shows how it’s done at Wanderlust.

So we liked L. A. And especially due to the fact that Seneca’s job dried up, the purpose for us moving to NYC in the first place, and that it’s just SOOOOOOO damn expensive there, we decided to forgo the obligatory 2 years of ass-kicking by “the system,” the NYC hazing period, and just move to L. A. And why not stop off in Salt Lake City for a while to have a summer with family, to reconnect to my old studio, and to offer some classes, workshops, and retreats.

Well after a great summer in Salt Lake City, we made the move. While in SLC, people would ask me repeatedly, “Now why are you moving to L. A.?” and when I told them simply because it’s on our adventure map, they would simply stare at me blankly. That’s fine, I don’t need people to understand my life for it to make sense to me.

I decided to take the Wanderlust training and was frankly thrilled to be doing a training again as a student instead of the teacher. I was hungry to get more of that fantastic feedback like I received from Nikki at Kula. I was eager to change things up and learn instead of teach— to sharpen the axe. And I knew that I wanted to do this as Wanderlust.

Plus, one great way to teach at a studio you like is to show up and pick up what they are puttin’ down. If it so happens that I can get onto the sub list at Wanderlust and someday be on the schedule, I’d be thrilled. But it’s good enough just to be learning the stuff.

So, with the training in mind, we moved to L. A., rented and Air B&B, and drove out.

The training started today and I’m so thrilled to be doing it. It’s exactly what I was hoping for and more. I’ll tell you more about the training tomorrow!



I Know The Truth

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There was a derelict shed behind the forgotten house where my grandfather kept his old tractor which used to plow an acre-size garden, his pride and joy and his reason for living, the only thing left of his family’s inheritance.

At 5 years old, I remember stepping into the old shed, my eyes adjusting to the dark as I breathed shallowly the imposing scent of gasoline and dirt. It smelled of rotting time, deceased decades, the bones of an age I never knew.

I remember seeing the rotting timbers which held the place together, the collection of rusted Utah license plates hanging on the wall, and a blunt chopping stump with an axe embedded permanently within, an agricultural Excalibur.

Against one wall was a sloping pile of silky-black coal, chunks the size of misshapen grapefruits, fossils revealing a forgotten time when people heated house and hearth by shoveling these bulky blocks into furnaces. As my great-grandparents died, so did their need for coal and this pile of forgotten fuel stood as a mute reminder of the invariability death.

I know the truth

Mostly, I remember sitting on top of that old tractor in its wide seat, looking over to see the enormous rear tires dwarfing the small front ones. I remember trying to reach the clutch and gas and pedals with my short, child's legs and handling the stick. The top of the gear shifter was decorated with a black skull.

Now, the message of it tells me that we are all dust. “Go ahead,” it seemed to whisper. “Plant, sow, till. But one day you too will be planted in this earth and that is the simple, hard truth, a truth as rigid as the axe embedded into the stump, and as true as there is soil to plant in."

Decades later, many of my own years buried, the shed has now probably been razed. Today, I'm increasingly aware of my own mortality as I see family members and loved ones, one by one, young and old, whose harvest times have arrived and are themselves planted in the earth.

And so like everyone else, I try to make meaning of the relatively small time I enjoy walking on top of this earth instead of being buried beneath it. The poet Maria Tsvetaeva speaks to this perfectly when she says in her poem, I Know The Truth:


I know the truth – give up all other truths!

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No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.

Look – it is evening, look, it is nearly night:

what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,

the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we

who never let each other sleep above it.



When I read the first line “I know the truth – give up all other truths!” my mind snaps to attention. What monumental truth has she discovered and needs to tell me? To me, she’s asking the human race to stop struggling and look at the beauty of the world, the night, and of course the oncoming dusk of our own lives. She says, take a look at the world around us and see how we are all part of the big picture.

Written in a time in Soviet history when poets were persecuted and killed, Maria Tsvetaeva makes a beautiful inclusion of the generals, the very people who sought to eliminate poets, “what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?” and by so doing, speaks to a bigger truth, even beyond the threat of her own death, that we are all human, subject to the same fate, “And soon all of us will sleep under the earth . . . .”

By pointing to the fact that, “all of us will sleep under the earth, we/ who never let each other sleep above it”, she uses her voice as a poet, an oracle, to illuminate the futility of struggling with each other when we will all eventually experience the same fate.

This is not a message of doom and gloom. It’s a wake-up call to practice being in the here and now and to look beyond dogma and idealism and search for the divine humanity everyone including “lovers, poets, generals.” I’m sure all of us fit into one if not all three of those categories

Scott Moore Yoga

What does it mean to be human and how do we truly appreciate another day in the sun?


Both poetry and poses are a chance to practice being human. Through them, we practice the vicissitudes of living, the ups and downs, the tension release, the struggles and joys. Perhaps mostly we practice cultivating paying attention before the sun has set and it is too late.

And by practicing, my hope is that we find something within us, something deep down that we can call real, something that we find to be fundamentally beautiful and good. Finding this within, even to a small degree, may we look around and find the same quality in everything else, particularly those people around us, family, loved ones, strangers.

May we, through practicing yoga and therefore better understanding ourselves, see the beauty, majesty and miracle of everything.

Perhaps this is what it means to truly see.






Why I Wake Early

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Sun Salutations

I awake today and sit enjoying the silence of a beautiful morning. Even as I sit, I'm watching the bright morning sun dance its procession around my front room. It is playing with the crystal hung in my eastern window and splattering rainbow prisms across each wall.

Even as I look, the color changes and fades, showing me that the earth is revolving around this sun. Things are changing. As I look out the window the sun is celebrating these early autumn trees with its light, making the yellow leaves explode with color against a cloudless and pale-blue sky. I see a small bird sitting in a shadow who decides to leap up higher and rest in the bright sun's warmth. And then it begins to sing.

Aren't we all like this bird, eager for the creature comforts of warmth on our skin, eager to leave the shadows for the sun and the opportunity to feel life pulsing through our veins, eager to feel how we may reflect that same brightness and joy through our song?

And perhaps this is why in yoga we practice celebrating the sun with Surya Namaskar, or sun salutations. Surya means "sun" and Namaskar means "a deep honoring." You might notice the same root word Namas as the base of the word Namaste, another Sanskrit word meaning to honor the True Nature or heart of hearts, the most sacred element and potential of another. Surya Namaskar is like offering a Namaste to our source, the sun, as it brings life to us and everything on this planet and we're dependent on it for all aspects of our well-being. Sun salutations are also a physical practice, a ritual, for acknowledging and honoring anything else you feel is your source (God, Creation, the Universe, Buddha nature, or whatever). But just as important, this practice reveals that we are part of that source and reflect a bit of that same light within ourselves. By acknowledging this similarity between ourselves and our source we empower ourselves with the memory of our True Nature. We are not dark creatures in a dark world, and where there is shadow, we can choose to leave it for the sun or shine light into it. We are beings of light, filled with life and love. And we are here to celebrate that, to learn from it, and to shine our light everywhere.

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Uinta Mountain Yoga Retreat October 5–7, 2018

Mary Oliver says in her poem Why I Wake Early:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Please join me this week as we practice Surya Namaskar and other poses to remind ourselves of this bigger picture. We show gratitude, rekindle our fire, and celebrate our own light.

Scott

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Women Protecting Women Online

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I’ve been getting my hair cut from the same woman for something like 25 years. It had been a while since I’d had a cut and recently while she was snipping away at my curls, I asked her if she were dating anyone. She proceeded to tell me a story of the horrors of online dating, specifically the D-bags she was encountering through the online dating world, actions that amount to nothing less than abuse.

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A while ago, even before the #MeToo Movement, I wrote an article entitled, “What It Means to Be A Man.” I wrote this article because I felt that one of the most important lessons of yoga is to find balance. Despite many advancements in our social culture, there’s still a stark inequality between the rights and abuses of men and women. As a man, I see the need for men to have better role models, better ideals for women and humanity as a whole, and a better and more complete concept of Self, one that is in alignment with the balance of the Universe.

Recently, I was made aware of a great article entitled, “The Empowering Internet Safety Guide for Women,” written by women for women that makes everyone aware of the abuses of women on the internet and gives helpful and actionable steps to protect one’s self from these abuses. It tackles everything from harassment on social media, namely Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, to harassment at work, online dating sexual harassment and more.

I’m including a bit of the article below and hope you’ll click to read the rest of it. I’m an advocate for all people’s equality, including and especially equality for women. Please pass this along. I feel it’s crucial information for today.


Namaste



The Empowering Internet Safety Guide for Women

Have you ever been harassed in the street? Received a crass message on a dating app? Had a coworker make a comment about your appearance that just didn’t sit right?

You’re not alone.

With the #MeToo movement, it’s easy to log onto Twitter or Facebook and see just how many women are victims of sexual harassment. Whether in person or online, women everywhere have experienced it in one way or another. And with all the new ways the internet has opened avenues of communication, online harassment is more prevalent than ever.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, most online abuse takes place on social media. Although men are also subject to online harassment – which includes name calling, derision, and physical threats – the study found that online, women are more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual harassment.

In addition, more than half of women ages 18-29 report having been sent sexually explicit images without their consent.

This number is only growing, and while 70% of women believe online harassment to be a major problem, not many know how to prevent it.

Women are often targeted simply because they are women. Attacks are often sexualized or misogynistic, and rhetoric tends to focus on their bodies and sexual violence. This is both physically and emotionally damaging, and women are often intimidated into silence, preferring to disengage rather than put themselves at risk.

However, there are ways we can protect ourselves.

This guide was written with the intention of empowering women to navigate the internet without fear. We discuss common occurrences in which women are subject to harassment in their daily lives – on social media, at work, while dating, and more – and give tips and advice on how women can take control.

It is important for us to note that some of the advice given here encourages anonymity, rather than risking being targeted. While this may seem to run counter to the idea of encouraging self-expression, we believe that every woman should be empowered to make that choice for herself.

Our job is to give you the tools you need to do that.

We hope this guide encourages women everywhere to defend and protect themselves, and to stand up to sexual harassment, both on and off the web.

Continue reading . . .

Please share.


20-Hr. Yoga Nidra Immersion

Online or in-person. September 28–30 2018

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Valuing Perplexity

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Yoga Nidra Training

We all have problems. We all grapple with the unknown, about the big things like the origin of the Universe, sure, but more specifically about our own complicated life. We all want to solve our problems as quickly and painlessly as possible.


But sometimes it is only by questioning or struggling that we are driven to earnestly understand an otherwise hidden part of ourselves. Sometimes it is working through our struggles that we truly come to understand our full potential. Our questions fuel us to open our hearts, to seek for inspiration, to perform the necessary work, and more profoundly, to abandon our will to the grander wisdom of the Divine, whatever your concept of that is.

We must at once be willing to seek and do. What's most difficult is that we must also be willing to sit comfortably and simply be with what we don't know or understand. And sometimes to get real answers we must be willing to sit in our own darkness for a while.

This human tendency for control occurs regularly in our yoga practice as many of us strive to either know everything there is to know about yoga or try to perfect our poses.

Instead, let us practice this week the yoga principle of Santosha, or contentment, by learning to sit with and even value perplexity, to sit in the not knowing. There is a practice of allowing things to be just the way they are, perfect with our problems, as unseen forces that are working in mysterious ways to evolve your body, mind, and heart. 

The following poem by David Whyte seems to speak directly to learning from the not knowing and leaning into the darkness rather than running from it.

 

Sweet Darkness
by David Whyte
 

20-Hr. Yoga Nidra Training

Virtual or in-Person

September 28–30 2018

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

 

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

 

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

Meditation for Sleep

to recognize its own.

 

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

 

The dark will be your womb 

tonight.

 

The night will give you a horizon

further than you can see.

 

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

 

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

 

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

 

is too small for you.

How To Meditate: A 30-Day Meditation Challenge

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I love to teach yoga and meditation because I feel it's my calling to help people become the best versions of themselves so that they can go and bless the world in best ways they know how. 

The world needs people who are present, living their lives mindfully, and growing into their True Nature with a regular, dedicated meditation practice. The world needs YOU to be operating at your highest potential. 

Regular meditation is perhaps the most effective way to evolve into your highest self. Presence is the key to experiencing your birthright of magnificence. A group of meditators benefits the world in vast ways, bringing magnificence into the world like expanding ripples in a pond.
Some of the most common personal benefits of regular mediation are:

  • Spiritual awakening
  • Reduced stress
  • Greater focus
  • Understanding your purpose for the world
  • Greater compassion
  • Being less reactive more responsive
  • Greater happiness


Like any worthwhile endeavor, meditation takes practice. So let's do it together!

Join me in a meditation challenge, a group that will meditate every day for 30 days. This challenge will benefit you personally and will make the world a better place. 
 

The Challenge:

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You will meditate every day for 30 days for 15 minutes or more. That's it. With the support of the group, you will have the encouragement and connection to tap into the power that happens when a collective of people are meditating together. Even if you meditate at different times, the power of intention that connects us will empower you and enable your greatest benefit.  

If you are new to meditation, this is a perfect way to start a new life-long practice. You will receive in-depth explanations, teachings, and follow up to demystify the art and science of meditation, and establish yourself firmly in your practice. 

If you are an experienced meditator, this is also a perfect way to join this powerful collective to bring new heights to your practice and open new doors and awarenesses. 

While I will be sending out guided meditations, you can also choose any style of meditation you'd like. We will each be tracking our meditations every day using Insight Timer, a mobile app designed to help you time and track your meditations.

Once you register, you'll receive emails and resources to encourage you and support you along the way, including teachings and explanations about the why and how of meditation. Plus, you'll receive an invitation to some live group meditations via Zoom or in person depending on where you live. Live sessions will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. You'll be able to see and comment to the others in our group who are also doing this 30-day challenge. 

This next 30 days will change your life as well as the lives of everyone around you! 

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Once you Register


Once you register, you'll receive a welcome email with information about:

  • Specifics of the challenge
  • Live meditations
  • Many forms of meditation you might choose to do
  • Downloading the app
  • Live group meditations, virtually via Zoom, an online meeting platform or in person
  • A catalogue of guided meditations, both my catalogue of recordings as well as literally thousands on Insight Timer, which you can keep to help support you on your medative journey.
  • Receiving supportive emails 

What does this cost?


I'm more interested in you succeeding and the world becoming more mindful than I am making money, so here's what I'm offering:
The 30-Day Meditation Challenge costs $30, so that you'll commit to it. And everyone who completes the challenge, meditates everyday using the app for 15 minutes or more, can opt to get a FULL refund of their tuition. No hassle. No questions. So, essentially this is free! My deepest desire is that I don't make a dime on this project!


I invite you to commit to your own wellbeing. I know you can do it and I'll support you every step of the way. Join me!

Register

Fill out the form and press submit, then click on the PayPal button.

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After the Fire

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I closed two yoga studios about 4 years ago. Running and closing those studios has been two of the most challenging things I've ever done.

It's really difficult to run a small business. I fought every day just to keep the doors open. Eventually, we had to close our doors; the studios weren’t sustainable. I wish I knew then what I know now about running a business. Ironically, I learned volumes about running a business by closing my business. One of the most important things I learned was how to rebuild my life when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.

At the time of my businesses closing, I wished there were a manual for how to rebuild your life after you’ve just suffered a massive blow. During that difficult time, I received some divine guidance during a meditation, instruction that seemed absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. 

Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning.

Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.

Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.

In order to get some clear perspective, I had to get out of town for a few weeks to clear my head. I closed my studios and literally one week later got married to the love of my life. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My wife and I went on a honeymoon to Europe coupled with me teaching a yoga retreat and getting out of town really helped me to gain perspective. I felt reinvented as I came home from Europe, ready to tackle some of the challenges that were still looming as the result of closing my studios.

The situation still felt raw, like was just coming to, sitting on a neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. And in a real way, many things about my old business were still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachlorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There was only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this situation was scary, it feel freeing to look forward into the future. 

The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and represents the male/female creator of the universe in the dance of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and ultimate rebirth . . . over and over and over again. This statue teaches me that I’m involved in a process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime.

This understanding of moving in cycles made me feel better, like all of this was expected somehow. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.  

We are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?

And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.  

Here’s a poem I love that speaks to discovering the new chapter in your life.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

Hawaii Yoga

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Psyche and Eros: Knowing The Art of Love

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The story continues . . .  If you didn't read the first part of the story, click here.

Four Impossible Tasks

Psyche has had a tasted love and wants nothing more than to be back with Eros. Tragically, she finds herself exactly where she was previously— destitute on the bleak shores of the ocean. But this time it's different. This time she's willing to do whatever it takes to get back to Eros. No longer will she be passive and just allow things to happen for her.

As she is pleading to the gods for help, one god appears, Aphrodite, Eros' mother and says, "Okay, pretty thing. If you are serious about getting back to see my son again, you must accomplish four tasks." Psyche says that she is willing to do anything. And I don't know if you've really ever studied Greek gods but for most of them, benevolence isn't their thing. Aphrodite either wants to punish Psyche, watch her suffer or both. Or maybe Aphrodite can use this Psyche's energy in her desperate condition to get something she wants . . . from the underworld.

Sorting The Seeds of Love

Photo cred: http://www.grethexis.com/eros-and-psyche/

Photo cred: http://www.grethexis.com/eros-and-psyche/

First, Aphrodite leads Psyche to a door and says that in this room is some seeds and that for her first task if she is to see Eros, she must sort this pile of different seeds into their respective piles and it must be done by morning time. She opens the door and in this room is an enormous pile of seeds taller than her. Aphrodite smugly closes the door and leaves Psyche to her task. Psyche wants nothing more than to be with Eros but this task is impossible. She desperately tries for a while to sort seeds the best she can but eventually she is overcome with grief and fatigue and falls into a deep sleep. During her sleep an army of ants comes in, sees the task at hand and organize themselves to meticulously and thoroughly sort all of the seeds so that in the morning time when Aphrodite throws open the door, much to both of their amazement, all of the seeds are sorted and organized. Psyche is mute in astonishment. Aphrodite isn't amused but merely points to the next task.

Fiery Fleece

Next, Aphrodite instructs Psyche that she must gather some of the golden fleece of some rams that live in a far-off field. Problem is, that these rams breath fire and will singe you to a crisp if the so much as lay eyes on you. Desperate to find her way back to Eros, Psyche makes her way to the field and is hiding in the reeds. She quickly realizes how impossible it will be to gather the fleece of these incendiary animals before she gets turned into a toasted marshmallow. And just before she turns back in defeat, she hears the wind blow through the reeds and whisper to her that if she waits until the sun sets and the rams retire, she can find the bushes near where the rams like to feed where much of their fleece has rubbed off and she can gather it without the threat of getting burnt to a crisp. This she does and again returns, the impossible task done much to the disappointment of Aphrodite.

 Styx Water

Photo: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1442939&partId=1&people=112373&peoA=112373-2-60&page=1

Photo: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1442939&partId=1&people=112373&peoA=112373-2-60&page=1

Her third task is to gather a goblet of water from the river Styx. She arrives at the gates of the underworld and in strange fashion, the river is raging high above her in the air. There is no way she is going to be able to fill her goblet until an eagle comes down, grabs her cup in his talons, and flies up and fills the cup for her. Aphrodite? Unimpressed.

The Irresistible Lure of Beauty

Persephone's box.jpg

For Psyche's final and ultimate task, she must go all the way through the underworld and find the beautiful Persephone, who has a box with a special ointment that she must bring back to Aphrodite, ointment that will make her more beautiful than any other god. Psyche arrives at the river Styx, is once again overcome with how to even start this journey. As she is contemplating this impossible task of going all the way through hell with its obstacles, dangers, and depths, a tower speaks to her and gives her some crucial instructions. It says that she must first gather some money to pay the boatman to carry across the river Styx, that she must bring with her some sweet treats to give to the animals along the way so they don't eat her, and that no matter what, she must resist all requests made to her for help. The money and sweets aren't a big deal. She accomplishes this without a problem. What's hard for her is when she comes across a man whose donkey has dropped most of its load and who pleads for help. Next some women who look like her mother and grandmother plead for help with their task of weaving. This one hits hard because it is so much like home, remember this is what she did when she wasn't out dating like her friends? Lastly, a dying man pleads to her for help and she must resist trying to help even the dying man. At long last, she meets Persephone who gives her the box of the precious ointment.

It's done. Psyche has completed her tasks. All she needs to do is return the precious ointment to Aphrodite and she will win back her Eros. But instead of rushing straight to Aphrodite, she paused a moment and looked at the box and thought, "Why should Aphrodite get all this good stuff?" And so her curiosity got the best of her and she opened the box. As she opened the box she looked in and never had she seen anything so white, so glimmering, and attractive. Her hand reached uncontrollably into the box and touched the divine contents and because this was stuff meant only for the gods, her mortal body was overcome and she collapsed dead on the spot.

Love Returns

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Again, in Psyche's most desperate hour, the one and only Eros comes swooping down, sees the lifeless Psyche is pierced with love for her and in proper mythic fashion, bends down to give her the most divine, the most loving, the most beautiful kiss that has ever been. Maybe it was Divine Love's purpose (read Eros), maybe it was because Psyche had traveled all the way through hell for true love, or maybe it was the divine ointment in the box, but no sooner did their lips touch than did Psyche gain a rosiness back into her cheeks. Life started to flood back through her veins and soon her eyes fluttered open and she gazed upon her true love, Eros. But this time the gaze was different. To great astonishment, she realized that not only was alive again, but that she was seeing her one and only Eros without vanishing or being cast away, something very drastic had changed. Indeed she had been turned into a god herself and with this divine boon, she and Eros could forever live in love's bliss. At last, Psyche was reborn yet reborn into something much greater than she had ever imagined possible.

What Does This Myth Reveal about You?

The Oracle knew what she was doing when she sent Psyche out to die. The old part of her that wasn't her real, true self needed to die in order to finally become what was possible for her to be. She was more than someone who would marry the Frozen Greek Yogurt geek! She was worthy of the very Eros himself. At this point in the story, she abandons the passive realm of allowing things to simply happen for her and decides to make things happen for herself. Yet, despite her effort, she is met over and over again with impossible tasks. When you are ready to act, expect to be met with the impossible. But don't give up!

 

At first when she is faced with the task of sorting the seeds, she's overcome and falls asleep. Her part of her that was rational, the doer, became overloaded and she conked out. In her sleep, the ants come and did all the work. This represents allowing the tireless work of the subconscious, the dream world or image world to work its magic. And indeed many of life's problems can't be solved in the current rational mindset. We must open up to some unimagined creative force lying within us. This is a time to listen to our dreams, to pay attention to omens, to change our efforts from physical to the trust in the ethereal.

 

When Psyche goes and attempts to gather the golden fleece from the fire-breathing rams, she listens to the wisdom of nature for the most simple, and natural solution. This wasn't rocket science. It was good old, natural, common sense.

 

The eagle flying to fill her cup with water from the river Styx represents a messenger from the divine. Birds often represent that link between heaven and earth. Maybe we further our tasks by not only listening to our dreams and by listening to nature, but also find a mode to tap into our Divine nature through meditation, prayer, or scripture, in whatever form speaks to you.

 

Now, what about the tower? It's pretty strange that the human-made structure of a tower speaks to her and gives her such practical advice. Well, sometimes we need to rely on those things that are already built, already developed, that are solid real and practical. It could be we need to consult a therapist or medication, or do something like go to the unemployment office-whatever. Sometimes we need to use the help of the system or structure that is produced by human beings. The Tower gave some practical advice to Psyche like bringing money and treats to help the passage, but also it gave some difficult advice to avoid helping other people. In this instance, it was a time where she needed to use all her resources to help herself and not fall into that trap of putting others first. Her own ultimate evolution had to be her main concern. Sometimes we identify with being the helper when we need to be helped or just put all of our efforts toward our own rebirth. There is nothing wrong with this and to do otherwise is perhaps an offense to our greatest Divine purpose during times in our lives when we are called to give birth to this new self. And of course, sometimes, we have to go through hell in order to do so. But like in the end of this story we will find ourselves coming through the other side, not only reborn but reborn into a version of ourselves we never imagined with wisdom beyond our compression. Truly we will come to KNOW THYSELF.

 

Socrates is the father of western philosophy and is known by seeking wisdom through inquiring. This method of searching for knowledge by asking questions is known as the Socratic Method.

Socrates said that the one thing really worth knowing is the art of love. And just like Socrates, maybe, through understanding how myths like that of Psyche and Eros might apply to our own lives, we too might come to really KNOW, the the art of love.

How does your life play out like a Greek myth? Please comment below. And share this post! Thanks!

For these articles I drew upon a great book by William Bridges' called, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, particularly the Epilogue. For more information about this subject, I'd suggest reading it.

Guided Meditations for Sleep

Psyche and Eros: Greek Gods Who Are Dying to Live Part 1.

Psyche and Eros: Greek Gods

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Greek Gods

It is said that long, long ago, in mythic times, there was a woman named Psyche who was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. She was a Greek God without knowing it. In fact, she was so beautiful that all the eligible men thought her out of their league so she never got asked out. Here's Psyche, the most gorgeous woman in the land, staying home on Saturday night and helping her mom weave instead of partying with her sisters and friends who were hanging with the fine fellas.

Time went on and Psyche's parents began to get worried, all of Psyche's friends were getting married and having families and here's Psyche, as beautiful and sweet and smart as could be but without anyone to share her life with. And it wasn't like she wasn't trying. She'd go out and try to strike up a conversation with the man down at the Frozen Greek Yogurt shop but he would always turn his head away, all bashful like, and eventually start talking to some of the lesser ladies. This happened time and time again much to Psyche's disappointment.

So, Psyche's parents decided to stage an intervention. They decided to go to the great Oracle at Delphi and ask her what to do about their oddly destitute daughter. And with clarity and wisdom, greater than Psyche's parents could understand at the moment, the Oracle told them that they were to take Psyche out to the bleak and craggy cliffs along the shore and leave here there to die. Perplexed and disturbed but faithful, Psyche's parents did just that.

Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVMVEXd9WQk

Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVMVEXd9WQk

Revelations

Now Psyche, bewildered and forsaken, resigned herself to her fate as she lay on the rocks ready to die. She knew that nobody would ever love her and that the only fate for her was death. In this desperate condition, she fell asleep while waiting for the inevitable messenger of death and when she was sleeping, she was visited by a god, but not the one she was expecting. Instead the great god Eros came down and discovered her there distraught and ready to die. He fell in love with her upon first sight, as is want to happen with Greek gods, and asked his friend, the West Wind, to carry her to his palace.

Photo cred: wallsave.com

Photo cred: wallsave.com

Psyche awoke in Eros's palace. It was dark and even in the shadows, she could sense its opulence and majesty. She didn't know where she was or how she got there. Assuming she had died, she was perplexed because this wasn't what she had understood the underworld was supposed to look like. Where was the river of Styx, where was that terrible underground path winding downward, where was Hades, the god of the underworld?

Soon a figure appeared in the darkness. Though Psyche could not see his face, as he spoke to her she could sense his gentle and kind nature. He explained that he was Eros, that he loved her, and that she was in his palace, and could live there the rest of her days. He told her that she could have whatever her desire fancied so long that she was never to see his face; therefore, he would only meet her in the darkness. Eros then vanished. Finally, her desires to be in love had miraculously been fulfilled.

And so during her days she was treated to scented baths, servants, delicious food and drink, private yoga classes, and anything else she could possibly want. Each night Eros would visit her. Sometimes they would make love, sometimes they would eat together, but they would always fall asleep together.

Disruption in Paradise

Photo Cred: mythman.com

Photo Cred: mythman.com

However, each time Psyche awoke in the morning, Eros was never there. Psyche had never seen Eros's face, for that was the agreement. Well, Psyche became lonely and one night as Psyche and Eros were enjoying a little pillow talk, she asked him in the darkness if she could have her sisters visit her here in the palace. At first, Eros was adamantly opposed to the idea but he loved Psyche and wanted her to be happy so eventually he relented and allowed her to summon her sisters for a visit.

Psyche's sisters came and fell in love with the place. They loved the palace, the servants, and all the amenities.  Psyche's sisters were perplexed that she had never seen her lover, Eros. The more questions they asked about him the more she realized that she really didn't know much about him at all. "How can you be sure that he's not some monster, some beast who is holding you captive here in this place?" they asked.

This planted a gnawing seed of doubt and curiosity in Psyche's mind. So, later that night after her sisters left, and Eros came for his nightly visit, she lay there in the darkness and waited for Eros to fall asleep. She crept out of bed, grabbed a candle, lit it, and fisted a knife incase indeed he was a monster whereupon she planned to kill him. She crept back to where Eros lay sleeping and as the first ray of light shone upon Eros's face, a shockwave of astonishment sent surged through Psyche's entire body. Never had she seen anyone as beautiful as Eros. Surely he must be a god, she thought. She shivered as she looked at his beauty and the movement caused a drop of wax to drop from her candle and land on Eros's shoulder waking him. When he realized what she had done, he lamented that she had broken the rule and that as a mortal she was bound to leave the palace and never return. And in a flash the West Wind carried her back to that desolate craggy shore where Eros had first laid eyes upon her.

The story will be continued . . .

Life Lessons

So, like many of us, there were aspects of Psyche's life that didn't seem to be working well. That old life needed to face a sort of death in order for a rebirth to happen. It meant the end of her old life as she knew it. And though her new life with Eros was something new and exciting, it wasn't without sacrifices.

Often times when life isn't working, maybe it's an old relationship or job or belief system that doesn't bring us alive anymore, that old life has to suffer a death. In this myth, the Oracle represents our deep inner-wisdom that prevails over any conscious or rational thought. This wisdom can also be facilitated by a teacher or mentor who might be able to see clearly. The Oracle could also represent the mysterious circumstances of life that sometimes simply work themselves out in a way that end up being perfect for us in the long run.

And even though Psyche's new life seemed perfect in some ways, Psyche had the wisdom to betray the old, rigid beliefs, value systems and agreements, the dogma of her decision with Eros which kept her captive in a realm that she thought would make her happy but was itself a limiting paradigm. Something told Psyche that this wasn't the end of her evolution, that some bigger step needed to occur even though it probably wasn't a conscious decision. In this first part of the story there is little or no effort for any of these decisions, things simply happened and appeared for her.

What are the parts of your life that need to die? Old beliefs about place, self, work, family sometimes need to die in order to find a new version of ourselves. I don't know what I feel about reincarnation, but I certainly feel like I've lived several lives within this life. I'm someone very different than even five years ago. Can you resonate with that? What are the ways that your life seems to have changed? Have you experienced any sort of death re birth, maybe without very much effort on your part? What are the old agreements and beliefs you need to let go of in order to truly embrace this new life for yourself.

Join me next week as Psyche starts to make some very conscious decisions. . .

Scott

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