The Sea

We all come from the sea but we are not all of the sea.

Those of us who are, we are children of the tides and must return to it

again and again.

anonymous

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Yoga + Nature = Bliss

The title of this post has been my epic discovery of the summer and, because of this discovery, I’ve been busy doing as much yoga as I can in our glorious natural world.

The combined spirituality of yoga and nature is awesomely powerful and often during outdoor classes something will ping in my brain, causing me to cry big, detoxifying tears. This can be as intense as old grief surfacing or as simple as feeling the overwhelming happiness of being exactly where I am in that moment. It’s been a beautiful journey and I’m more than a little concerned about adjusting to the indoors once the autumn rain comes.

The other day, on an adventure walk in the woods, my dog and I raced along a maze of trails to a lily pad covered lake hidden in the forest. The water was sparkling in the sunlight and alive with fish, frogs, ducks and dragonflies. A deserted dock at the end of the lake seemed to be waiting for someone to turn it into a yoga platform, so I obliged. I breathed in the fresh, green scent of the forest and focused all of my thoughts on the sea of perfect, pink lilies at my feet.

Yoga + Nature = Bliss

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Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, ”I have found a truth.” Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.” For the soul walks upon all paths… The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals. – Kahlil Gibran

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Jason’s Garden

One day I’ll live in a little, vine-covered cottage by the sea. A flock of happy chickens will roam the grounds, laying eggs for breakfast. The backyard will be home to a big, beautiful garden, bordered with bright orange marigolds, alive with ladybugs and surrounded by apple and pear trees. Occasionally a freshly caught fish from an unpolluted ocean (if that still exists) will grace the dinner table. My beloved bike will take me everywhere and I’ll live a simple, carbon-neutral life. But until my sweet, “living off the land” dream becomes a reality, I have to make do trying to get back to basics in a crowded urban setting.

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One way of getting back to basics, growing food, has become a little bit of an obsession lately. As I walk my dog through the neighborhood I find myself peering in people’s yards, trying to get a closer look at their gardens.

Last week I stumbled upon a stunning garden in my neighbor Jason’s backyard and inched my way through the grass to take a closer look.  There I found a lush plot of tomatoes, kale, scallions, herbs, squash and a host of other goodies. This is one of the communal, apartment gardens I love so much and it is a magnificent display of organic goodness.

As luck would have it, I ran into Jason down at the dog beach a few days later and raved about the beauty of his garden.

He mentioned that he had more veggies than he knew what to do with and said to help myself any old time. Really? Carte blanche to fresh, organic, veggies?

I returned to his garden that very evening, carrying a large canvas shopping bag with lots of room to take my little green treasures home. The next day, happy as could be, chopping away in my kitchen, this is what I made:

GARDEN SALAD

Bunch of mixed greens, from Jason’s garden

raspberries, picked from the community garden

pecans

crumbled Salt Spring goat cheese

Homemade olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard and basil dressing.

The salad is accompanied by sourdough bread, topped with heirloom tomatoes, basil and Salt Spring Island goat cheese. The bread is drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted it in the oven.

Add a chilled glass of something sweet and sparkly and you have a really simple, really delicious meal.

Thank you, Jason, for sharing your garden with me.

A Single Flower

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. – Buddha

Yoga Magic

There was quite a buzz surrounding Ryan Leier’s yoga class in Stanley Park last weekend. He was closing the Vancouver Seawheeze festivities and my yoga lovin’ friends were extremely excited to have him in town. The staff at Lululemon seemed beside themselves about practicing with him and their eyes lit up when they spoke his name. All of this piqued my curiosity. So, off I went on a pilgrimage to Stanley Park to see what this yoga teacher was all about.

Ryan opened the class by asking us to dedicate our practice to someone we love. My older sister Inga’s face immediately entered my mind. Inga died a very violent death over ten years ago but I still feel her spirit all around me from time to time. There have been many First Nations healing ceremonies around my sister’s death and First Nations believe that when eagles show up at a ceremony, it means our loved ones spirits are there with us. Eagles have flown above us at an extraordinary amount of these ceremonies. So many, that I now think of Inga as my Eagle Spirit Sister. I put my hands on my heart and dedicated the next hour to her.

Next Ryan invited us to put our hands on the ground beneath us and feel what the earth had to tell us. Feel how we are a part of it. Feel the wind and the sun and how we are part of that. The two major spiritual experiences of my life have been sitting by the ocean and realizing how connected I am to nature, the world, the universe. Not separate at all but profoundly connected. I started to have this feeling again and felt the tears flow. He instructed us to feel the spirits around us and let them lift our arms up into the air. He told us to say hello to the sun, to flap our wings and fly like a bird. Soar like an eagle. Become an animal. Drum our hands on the earth. Scream, shout, shake it all out. He told us to do the things we never get to do in our society. To yell, to be free, to be connected. And as I followed his instruction, I realized how I was starving for…this. The tears flowed again.

Next he asked how many old people in the crowd remember Steve Miller. My hand shot up and I waved it as I shouted “I’m old! I do, I do!!” And, sure enough, the hypnotic strains of Fly Like an Eagle followed. Oh yes, my favourite song to listen to when smoking weed in high school. But between the association with my sister and this beautiful yoga experience, more tears. Good, detoxifying tears. Wow, I thought, we idolize people who make huge amounts of money and have power over other people in this crazy culture but we don’t idolize awake, aware teachers like this who can help us heal our souls. Bizarre.

After doing several yoga poses with my eyes closed, I looked down at my mat and saw that a perfect feather had landed right in the middle of it. It wasn’t an eagle feather but I took it as a sign that my sister’s presence was there with all of us in the park and it felt just beautiful. I think when you get to a place of healing and connection with nature and the universe, all kinds of signs and serendipitous events begin to happen. This, to me, is the ultimate way to live and the path I want to travel on.

At the end of class, Ryan asked us to reach for the stars then roll on our sides in a fetal position and remember far back in time when our brain was connected to our heart, in the womb. I remembered.

I don’t know quite how to explain Ryan Leier, other than to say that when you are in his presence you know you are in the presence of a connected being. A true free spirit and a wise soul. A teacher in the biggest sense of the word. And it was magic.

Leaving the class, I said to my friend that this is the kind of yogi I could follow everywhere. I could buy a turquoise VW van and follow him all over North America. Happily. And, who knows, maybe one day I will.

I left Stanley Park feeling like a true nature’s child and I could feel my Eagle Spirit Sister walking beside me.

Namaste.

my sister, Inga

my sister, Inga

Seawheeze – Part II

The Race

It’s the morning of the half marathon and I roll out of bed, grab my camera and run down to the beach to take photos of the runners. Especially photos of my friend Kim, who’s running in Seawheeze for the very first time. Unfortunately, I drank copious amounts of wine the night before, celebrating my dog’s birthday (yes, my dog’s birthday) and left the house without my memory card. Eeeek!! Back home I go, then race to the beach again and make it just in time to snap a few photos of the end of the run.

Thankfully, they were giving out free cups of strong JJ Bean coffee at the cheering station. After slurping down a couple of cups, hearing fans shouting and music blasting, I’m definitely coming back to life. Okay, I pretty much missed the run but I still have an afternoon yoga class and concert ahead. So, off I go to cat nap, then change into my Lululemons and head downtown.

The Sunset Festival

What’s the ultimate cure for a hangover? Yoga, of course. So, we walk through the park to the closing Seawheeze event and join the biggest yoga class I’ve ever seen. Thousands of yogis sit side by side in the idyllic setting of Stanley Park.

As teacher Ryan Leier takes the stage my camera runs out of batteries and I, of course, have not brought a back-up. I was really looking forward to taking tons of photos and I’m beyond disappointed. I snap a few pics with my iphone before I realize that everything happens for a reason and this class is definitely not a photo-op. Something really special and magical is happening. Ryan Leier asks us to become part of the wind and sun and earth. He asks us to feel the spirits around us lift our arms into the air. I put my phone away and concentrate completely on the man on stage. I’m starting to realize that I’m in the presence of a true guru and I had better pay attention.

To be continued…

Seawheeze

Lululemon’s Seawheeze half marathon is running through Vancouver Saturday morning and, in preparation for this, my neighborhood turned into a yogi/runner’s Nirvana Friday night at Kits Beach.

The beach was taken over by bongo drums, reggae music and hundreds of yogis and yoginis stretching their muscles for the big run ahead. Such a beautiful vibe with everyone flowing in synch beside the ocean and mountains.

“All matter, including you and I, has rhythmic movement within it. You feel happy when you sit near an ocean because your vibrations synchronize with the frequency of the waves.”
― Ed Viswanathan, The Hinduism Primer

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