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4 September 2013

“Take care of yourself!” or ¡Cuidate! is the usual way that we end our emails to our Cuban friends and they to us. It’s a sweet, tender way to say goodbye to those you love. 

What does it mean to take care of oneself in this rapid paced, mind-bogglingly ungrounded culture? This summer when Berni (my partner of 30 years and taskmaster of an apple farmer) wasn’t cajoling me and others to bring in the apple harvest, I spent a good deal of my time in the hammock pondering this dilemma…and in part, taking care of me and mine, "cuidandome.”
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Photo by Kirk Fuller, from 2008 Lyri-ca trip to Cuba

Taking care in/of/via the body? The Cubans, like many Latino cultures, remind us of the importance of being embodied, of enjoying the music of the body and the delights of dance, the arts and looking after ourselves through creative expression, despite enormous material deprivations partly due to the embargo. Their passion for yoga has a unique expression and much to teach us--and this is why our group Yoga Va! delights in opportunities to meet and share our yoga inspirations.

For those in the Bay Area, come and join us Friday September 6th for a celebration of this yoga exchange. We will begin the evening with yoga a la cubana and a beginning salsa class which is key to the message of the evening, and this little diatribe: celebrate the body, come back to the body. If you want to hear more about our proposed bilingual newsletter and what plans are afoot for Lyri-Ca and Yoga Va!, possibly join us to dance and do yoga in Habana in 2014! see the update on Lyri-Ca page.

Weekend workshop is FULL, but there's still room in Friday Teacher Training workshop

3/21-23 St. Louis MO

5/30-6/1 Portland OR


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Gray Bear Tennessee, site of 2014 Presence in Yoga

9/13-6/14 Boonville CA
Program is FULL, space may be available in some monthly workshops. See Workshops for availability

1/14-12/14 Online Care!

Taking Care Culture

Along with me in the hammock were some interesting tomes that explain—to those who aren't already convinced!—that our disembodiment owes much to a long history of left-brain dominance. In The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist, psychiatrist, literary scholar and brain researcher, claims that since Ancient Greece, the left hemisphere—the rational, controlling/focusing, what he calls the Berlusconi side of the brain—has been on a rampant path of self promotion. And the right hemisphere, which although he despises the use of words like yin and feminine (not left brain enough?), has become dwarfed; the qualities of receptivity, listening, spaciousness, presence, willingness to be with ambivalence, become insignificant in the triumph of the rational. 

Riane Eisler, in Sacred Pleasure, sees this pattern emerging out of earlier invading tribes from the Northern Steppes who abandoned previous “relational” cultures with what she calls a Dominator mentality. This mode of being brought violence, abuse of women and minority interests, and the cult of suffering over pleasure that continues to this day and is accepted as the norm of human behaviour. Her book is not a cry to return to some mystical matriarchal culture, which she would categorise in a similar way to a patriarchal culture, ie dominator. It is more a quest to explore the scientific evidence that cultures did exist where we lived in relationship with each other. There was a balance: communication between left and right brain, between male and female, between body and spirit. 

So refreshing to consider that this could be our truer heritage! With this type of relational culture, there is respect for pleasure and living in the body. How much of our yoga practice is about domination and how much about enjoying, participating, communicating, taking care?                                      

Mothering ourselves!

Today is my Mum’s 95th birthday and I am one of the lucky ones who has a Mum who truly took care of me. I can see the echoes of that care all the way through my life. Some folks see spiritual practice as a way of re-parentingourselves - even if we have the very best of parents. 

Eve Ensler in her powerful book In the Body of the World, not only did not have the most attentive of mothers, she also became alienated from her body because of the sexual abuse perpetrated by her father. Her life and work could be seen as a path to mothering herself…and mother so many others along the way. Her book begins explaining how cancer enabled her to actually be in her body after seeing her body as a burden most of her life: “something that unfortunately had to be maintained.”

Her TED talk that I included in the 2012 YBE course is one of the most impressively honest TED talks I have heard. In both book and talk she quotes another of my tomes, Philip Shepherd’s New Self, New World:

If you are divided from your body, you are also divided from the body of the world, which then appears to be other than you or separate from you, rather than the living continuum to which you belong.
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From the opening day at Eve Ensler's City of Joy in the Congo 2011.

Taking care of earth body - Dissolving barriers of self and skin
My summer reading and conferences like the Bioneers, the Heirloom Expo and our dear local Not So Simple Living Fair—which I did creep out of my hammock for!—convince me that if you don’t see your body as part of this continuum, then the environmental chaos we are living in is totally predictable. And conversely, how working with ecological issues and around people doing amazing work can be heart warming and nourishing to the whole being. This sense of separation is sometimes encouraged by the lack of dialogue between communities, between our spiritual world and our political worlds originating in this left brain v. right, dominator v. relational, and doom and gloom talk. How can we possibly take care of earth or body without seeing ourselves as intimately connected and mutually dependent?

As usual the Buddha nailed it!

And how does one look after others by looking after oneself
By practicing, developing, and applying mindfulness 
And how does one look after oneself by looking after others?
By patience, by non-harming, by kindness and by empathy
And looking after others, one looks after oneself.
In looking after oneself, one looks after others

Taking Care of Practice

Eve, even in her months of cancer, completed a project called the City of Joy in the Congo, a place where those women who had seen the worst kind of violence and abuse could begin to reclaim their lives and live in their bodies. The principles of this “City” are simple “cuidate” measures for all of us: a) tell the truth, b) stop waiting to be rescued, c) give away what you want the most. I would add to the above d) cultivating a little inner quiet practice time every day, no matter what your schedule, your own inner garden.

Fall is a great time to establish or expand on this and interestingly enough our PIP program, Practice is Priority, is full. We are all thinking alongthe same lines! I have posted a simple chakra vinyasa practice that begins this program as a free download for all and an apology to those who couldn’t be included. If you’ve had a sluggish summer, it might be a simple segue to deeper things! 

Taking Care of Others in Yoga

Those of you who practice, what about sharing that practice? Despite the characterization of Yoga in mainstream press, I still believe—perhaps more strongly than before—that this is a noble and very essential profession for our times, helping folks be in their bodies, cultivating listening, possibly even loving their bodies; and in this way move from dominator mode to relational mode in life.

Piedmont Yoga Studio is offering two programs this coming year. Deep Yoga a 225 hour program to literally deepen practice and begin to teach (one space left as of 8/29/13) and a 300 hour program for more experienced teachers. In Sacramento, I have the delightful job of working with Michelle at It's All Yoga on a 300 hour program (early bird fee extended til Sept 9 if you mention this newsletter)

And those of you who are not in the area or can’t access classes workshops due to schedule, or cuidate type retreats like Presence in Yoga, join me and Cyd online in the Bowl of Well-Being in 2014.  This month by month course and online gathering is specifically designed for women, encouraging us through yoga, Ayurveda, herbalism and creativity to nourish our beings and live vital balanced lives. Applications due in now.
Lads, I would luv to do a similar course for you all but I am afraid I do not have the qualifications! We all need this kind of support and camaraderie. 

Finally, a place to begin taking care is forgiveness. Call Me by My True Names is a strong poem by Thich Naht Thanh that helps us see the suffering in all and the continuum of being. It is included in a short meditation on Self Forgiveness - free download - given at a workshop this year that is an attempt to connect the need to both look at the bigger picture of forgiveness and the constant drone of self-negation that many of us live with.   A day of yoga and meditation called The Art of Self-Forgiveness is coming up at Yomo on Dec 8. It’s a rich place to start and to continuously re-examine.  

Taking care of the moment: All we really have!

In a recent retreat, I was reminded by the excellent teachers to note the way that we bring attention to the moment and the way we rest there. The initial attentiveness has a more yang flavour which we are more accustomed to and excel at. And yet we often don’t relax into the being there, the receiving of that moment, the savouring without indulging, the sustaining, a more yin flavour. 

For what its worth, enjoy the moment and cuidate mucho! Time to get out of the hammock and dive into Fall.

luv m

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