Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Complete Circumnavigation of the Earth in 33 Days!

A Complete Circumnavigation of the Earth in 33 Days!

My voyage began with an around-the-world ticket on September 25th from Denver with touchdowns in Washington DC, Rome, Perugia, Florence, Geneva, Munich, Seoul, and Los Angeles, and finally back to a snow storm in Denver!

People sometimes glamorize world travel, yet like anything, travel is not always easy and comes with its ups and downs. Precicesly at the moment I would start to miss home or feel the wear and tear of the road, I'd log in to Facebook or open an email and there would be a message thanking me for traveling as much as I do, appreciation for sharing the teachings despite the hardships of travel, and general loving wishes. I must thank each of you who wrote, because these messages came at exactly the moments I needed to hear them, and they meant so much to me. Truly, thank you.

The tour kicked off with my 8th retreat to Umbria, and another outstanding week of decadent food, wine, and yoga.

After an exciting day in my old stomping grounds of Florence, Kelli and I had an adventure – an overnight train to Geneva! We were greeted in the morning by David Newbery who promptly fed us with fresh juiced fruits and veggies made by 16-yr old, up-and-coming raw foods educator, AJ.

As always it was a total pleasure working with the exceptional Swiss and French Kula in Geneva.

After a day of rest, home practice, catching up, and a hot bath, I left for Munich and on to Seoul for two weeks of the Part 2 Immersion!

Since 2007 I have been helping to build Anusara yoga in Korea with Tina Park at Jai Center in Seoul. This was my 5th trip to Korea and this year we started a 3 part Immersion which has been rocking the yoga community.

Our one bi-lingual student, Henna Lew, summed up the Immersion with these words: "It's been truly magical for the past two weeks and has brought so much courage and happiness to a level that some of us have not experienced in our entire life until today!"

It has been a total honor to teach so much this year in Korea, because like anything into which we put our love and energy, a great vibration is created. It is wonderful to feel such a deep bond with a group of women who speak completely different languages than I, and who live in radically different cultures. Because of their dedication and eagerness to learn, the student’s transformation from Part 1 to Part 2 has been astonishing. Check out these shakti-filled sisters!

I have been learning Korean with Tina and the women, and enjoying the challenge. Because it is so difficult, I just end up laughing at myself a whole lot.

Trip to the DMZ

A few of us also had the great fortune of touring the DMZ (De-militarized zone, the 4 kilometer wide boundary that divides North and South Korea), which was a hugely eye opening and moving experience for me. The DMZ has had almost no human contact for over 50 years. Consequently, the whole stretch of this 4 kilometer-wide zone has reverted back to nature, attracting rare and otherwise extinct species of birds, animals, plants, and insects.

When these two countries reunite, all of the Korean peninsula will have this gorgeous wildlife preserve to enjoy – a gift to come out of the separation.

What was most uplifting about being there was seeing the art work on the South Korean side which was full of hope, as well as real structures such as a Freedom Bridge and a fully functioning train station that was built complete with train tracks that extend across the DMZ toward North Korea. Even though there is technically no use for this station, it was built as a vote of confidence and as a gesture toward the reality of the need for transportation across once reunification occurs. “Fake it till you make it, build it and they will come”, I always say!

Ribbons of Hope
In this photo, are the ribbons we placed containing our written prayers for unification.

At this stage on the tour you can see below Elizabeth (who has been assisting me on all three of my Asian tour stops this year) and I having a tough time smiling, as we were still absorbing the heaviness of the reality going on at the border.

We were also joined by om time Immersion graduate, Bill Carver from Durango, CO who will be traveling in Asia until January and joining parts of the Korean Immersion.

On our tour, we were taken into “The Third Tunnel”, one of 4 tunnels the North Koreans started digging under the DMZ to eventually invade Seoul. It is said that they began excavating at the end of the war, but the South Korean army discovered the 4 tunnels throughout the 70’s to the 90’s before they could be used.

Along with a slew of young soldiers, we entered the South Korean tunnel that had been built by the army in order to access and then block the North Korean passageway. We then came upon the spot where the North Koreans had stopped digging before they got caught, an actual narrow tunnel that was designed to dispatch thousands of soldiers in an hour's time. Total erie alert!

Everyone had to put on these ridiculous helmets, which I was convinced were a gimmick, but when I heard all the tall people’s helmets hitting the top of the tunnel repeatedly, I realized they were a needed commodity. We are smiling in this picture because, despite the heaviness of the actuality, the young soldiers were so jovial inside the tunnel, we couldn’t help but smile. At one point I was questioning the light-hearted vibe jokingly, and Tina said, “Yeah, what’s with the party attitude in The Third Tunnel?” Well, this was their educational field trip from hard training – they were as much tourists as we were!

Overall, it was an unforgettable experience for me. The fact that such a separation exists, and that so many people are intentionally isolated from the global community (the North Koreans have no cell phones, internet, or cars!) is totally wild.

Whenever there is separation, there is a lack of relationship and therefore isolation and then delusion, and when there is a lack of relationship or isolation, there is NO YOGA.

On the ribbons we set out on the fence of the DMZ, we placed our prayers for unification. It has been too long to hold such a stance of separation and hope is very much REAL.

In our lifetime, may we be witnesses to the DMZ’s dissolution, may all the fascinating nature that has emerged be left standing as a symbol of rebirth for the entire planet, and may North Korean citizens be welcomed lovingly into the International community with peace and harmony. May it be so. May it be real.

Los Angeles

The day after the immersion, I had one of the longest Mondays I've ever had - I left Seoul at 12:08pm on Monday and arrived in LA on Monday at 10:15am, "earlier" than I had left! In three short days, I managed to sleep off dangerously drowsy jet lag (thank you Tanya and Beate for driving me around the first day!), I saw 11 different friends I have not seen in years, got a much needed and ecstatic facial at Julique, had productive meetings, and got my toes wet in the Pacific. It was too short, so I will make sure to go back to LA soon, and stay much longer next time!

As I write this from the plane, I return to the first major blizzard back home in Colorado, the final stretch of my planetary circumnavigation!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yogi Highlight - Eric Ryan!

The first yogi I am featuring, is Eric Ryan from New Jersey. Eric is known all over the world now for his radical transformation in the last two years since studying Anusara yoga. Since I met him, he has been with me on the mat on Martha's Vineyard, in Italy, Chile, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. When I met Eric, I found him to be bright and kind, yet there were clouds cloaking his full light from shining. He was less fully engaged, less social, and more withdrawn. He could not push up off the floor in Urdvha Dhanurasana, his handstands were enthusiastic, but his alignment was not refined, so his stamina would burn out like a flame in seconds and he'd be down. His athletic background made him competent on the mat, but he would not pause long enough to sync with me and so he'd rush in and out of poses, and over-effort many times.

Watching Eric soften, open up, channel his greatness, and embrace being part of a kula (community of the heart), has been a total blessing for me. Each new workshop or part of the immersion, his light would come through with more clarity. His poses, out of no where, started to unfold. For example, within only a year and a half he went from "can't push up" in urdhva dhanurasana to demoing drop backs and dwi pada viparita dandasana and nailing it on the first try.

He slimmed down significantly. His skin tone and overall luster energetically started to glow.

Eric became a true friend to all of us, became an official Douglas Brooks groupie, and over the course of the Immersion a spectacular tattoo of Ganesh evolved on his upper back followed by Kali alighting on his foot! I have not seen it yet, but apparently there is a third addition - Hanuman in flying form holding the mountainside of Sanjivani herbs, now on his chest.

Congratulations, Eric. You've worked hard, your adhikara (studentship) rocks, your devotion is appreciated, your service to the greater good and the kula is our greatest blessing, and your presence is an inspiration! Keep on evolving!

Words from Eric:

My first Anusara Yoga class was also one of my first yoga classes. It was a workshop with Amy on Martha’s Vineyard in 2006. I was pretty clueless and had to watch other students to have any idea what the poses were. I felt awkward and clumsy but something clicked and I knew that this was something I wanted more of.

What really attracted me was the sense of welcome I felt. Folks asked :“How are you?” and I sensed that they actually cared about the answer. The quality and depth of my every conversation and interaction improved; as did my sense of connection to my heart and the community.

The Fall of 2008 was calamitous. The economic collapse caused me significant dislocation and demanded reappraisal of what I had held as precious. My marriage seemed irreparable, and there was the passing of loved ones. I arrived in Umbria raw and grieving. The kula was a lifeline and I felt like a drowning man. The kula took care of me with loving support, acceptance and hugs.In Umbria Amy spoke about the Immersion as the next step for those who wanted to deepen their understanding of the Anusara philosophy and system of alignment. I felt ill prepared for such a big step but I hungered for it.

I asked Amy: What would I have to do to be ready for the Immersion?
I expected a checklist: Practice 10 hours a week. Kick up into handstand at the wall. Urdva with straight arms… etc.

The answer that Amy gave was: It is just a breath away.

I could no more refuse her invitation than I could stop my own breath. I returned home and amped up my class schedule, trying to get prepare. The Immersion proved to be more than I could have hoped for. Here were people who had chosen the same path I had. My sense and appreciation of the kula deepened and enriched me. The authenticity of the connection among us was profound and powerful. It inspired confidence and effort. I found that by trusting my teacher and living and breathing my commitment that the boundaries of my asana practice were expanding. Asana also became more playful. Even falling out of a pose became an occasion for laughter and joy.

One of the things I have experienced along the way is that progress is seldom linear and it can be frustrating to me when I think that I am about to finally “get it” and then “it” decides to dance out of my reach. I often feel as if I am actually going backwards. This is the time to take a “step towards the teacher”. Sometimes that teacher is the universal principles of alignment, sometimes the asana teacher standing in front of you at the studio and sometimes it is the teacher that is in each of our hearts. In all cases taking a step towards the teacher results in the teacher taking two steps towards you.

It sounds mundane; but the commitment to scheduling chunks of time for yogic exploration and restoration is an affirmation that this is the path I have chosen and this is the path that I am on. Even the act of marking my calendar with a future event is making an important choice that renews my commitment to my practice and to ordering the rest of my life so that it is in support of that practice. Then, when challenges come, I look at the calendar and think: Well, this month may be a bit of a bumpy road, but the middle of next month I get to be in the company of some amazing beings and then the Shakti will really pulse!

I have immense gratitude that I stumbled in to Anusara. I am also deeply grateful for the teachings of John Friend, Douglas Brooks, Amy, and all of my other teachers and I am grateful for the support of the kula. May it continue to expand and enfold.