On my recent trek through Peru, we tapped into the edge of the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world, the Amazon. Covering over 2 million square miles, 60% of the forest is contained within Brazil, followed by Peru with 13%, and Colombia with 10% and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
This spectacular world of its own originally flows with abundance. The Amazon Rainforest is considered “The lungs of the Earth” as more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon. One out of every ten of the world’s known species live in the Amazon and there are around 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and 2.5 million different insects. Further, there are around 3000 fruits, and in the west we make use of only around 200 of them. However, indigenous tribes make use of over 2000 of these fruits!
Around 80% of the food we eat originally came from the rainforest. Some of the more popular examples include coffee, chocolate, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, black pepper, pineapples and corn.
During my trek, we had the opportunity to walk through the coffee making process at a local coffee plantation. It’s important to understand where our products come from and it was a blessing to participate in the process, especially when I’m used to just consuming the final product.
Picking the Beans, De-skinning, Roasting
Human inhabitants first settled in the Amazon region at least 11,200 years ago. These native tribes make up almost half the population of Peru, and the Amazon basin was once home to an approximately 2000 different nations. Now there are about 400-500 and it's believed that about fifty of these tribes have never had contact with the outside world!
Many indigenous people depend on sustainable sources of the rainforest for income, like tapping from the rubber tree, to provide for their families and communities. Up until a century and a half ago, only rainforest natives knew how to tap latex from the tree.
The latex sap from the rubber tree was once used to waterproof clothes and even to form homemade shoes. Natives used to dip their feet in the rubber from the rubber tree to protect their feet. Today, the latex sap from the rubber tree is still used in the modern processing of products, such as tires. The bark has to be cut just enough to start the latex flow, but not enough that the tree is damaged. A single tree can be harvested for 25 years or more. High grade trees produce about 30 pounds of rubber a year, that equals 90 pounds of latex.
My favorite use of sustainable rubber is in these amazing Iguaneye shoes. They are a lightweight diverse choice for traveling in both big cities and in the natural world. The rubber used for the main part is neutral, hypoallergenic, soft and very flexible. It is also 100% recyclable. The shape of the Iguaneye has been created to perfectly conform to the contours of your feet. The form provides a supportive, secure and extremely comfortable fit. Further, Iguaneye shoes are a refreshing alternative to flip flops in warm weather, the ventilated system is made of six openings and a series of canals which allow fresh air to circulate under the foot arch…”This feeling of freshness reinforces the impression of not wearing anything and walking barefoot.” They are also perfect for doing yoga outdoors.
Hammock Yoga in the Rainforest- a New Way to Conceptualize Balance
The rainforests have begun to be destroyed in the last 100 years to make way for farm land. Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to non-forested areas. Today, the rainforests are being destroyed by 1.5 acres every second. It’s often logging businesses that create conflict when they seek to exploit and permanently change the land upon which the Amazon basin’s indigenous peoples rely. There has been barely any economical advantage for Brazil from logging rainforest zones and converting these to pastoral fields.
Vanishing Rainforest: Painting by Hannah Faulkner
In the yoga philosophy of the Yamas (one limb of Pantajali’s 8-Limed Path to Enlightenment) also known as Universal Morality, Asteya means to take nothing that does not belong to us. When these big businesses seek to destroy the long-term health and production of such a special place, they are not only stealing from local native people and animals, but also from future generations’ ability to utilize these unique resources.
Ahimsa is another one of the Yamas, lessons in Universal Morality, from Pantajali’s 8-Limbed Path. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm. Therefore, in this situation, we need to respect and honor to the land and those who live on it.
Sustainability is the capacity to endure instead of destroy. It is how biological systems remain diverse and productive in the long run. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Sustainability is all about seeing the big picture. It starts with strong individuals who make a stand for Universal Morality.
Chico Mendes was an early advocate of the idea that people who live in the forest could create livelihoods from sustainable forest resources, rather than the one-time economic benefit of cutting down trees. He practiced Ahimsa and followed his heart. Mendes organized the National Council of Rubber Tappers in Brazil and created extractive reserves for tapping the rubber trees. These reserves allow for the sustainable harvest of goods, such as rubber or nuts, and helped to protest against the clear cutting of land for cattle grazing. Sadly in 1988, he was murdered for his work. He was killed by greedy ranchers who only cared about their own wealth, opposed to his efforts to save the rain forest. Since then, his efforts have been carried on by his coworkers and supporters across the world.
Another example of how we can show ahimsa while traveling is to create a respectful experiences for everyone involved. G Adventures is a world-renowned tour group that creates the opportunity for cultural exchange rather than exploitation. They lead tours through the Manu Rainforest preserve. Local indigenous people offer their homes and warms meals in exchange for monetary compensation. It is beneficial for everyone involved. The takeaway can be a deeper understanding of the relationship between the people of these secluded regions and the environment upon which they depend. (www.gadventures.com/blog/working-together-Tourism-Amazons-indigenous-peoples)
What type of relationship should we have with our resources?
Do you know where your objects come from and how the materials were extracted from nature?
Are these products created in a sustainable or destructive way?
Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions, reassessing economic sectors or work practices for sustainable architecture, using science to develop new technologies with renewable energy and sustainable power, and adjusting individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.
As individuals, we should do our best to remain conscious of these concepts. It can be tricky when we live in big cities with large shopping centers and abstract packaging and labeling of products. Further, it’s becoming easier and easier to consume products without even leaving the comfort of your own home. Amazon.com may account for around a third of all U.S. ecommerce sales. Founder Bezos named the business after the river, Amazon, to suggest scale- the largest river in the World to represent the world’s largest bookstore.
Although there is an enormous amount of products that one can consume on this megasite, we as consumers can choose to be more mindful and do a little research about the materials and procedures involved with making the products that we desire.
Although, I am one of those romantics who loves the feel and smell of old fashioned book, one of my favorite alternatives is to listen to amazing books on Audible.com (part of Amazon and Kindle). With a monthly subscription, I have access to at least one new book each month and options to listen to more for very reasonable prices. This is a win/win situation and life-changing invention. People can tell their stories and share valuable information through sound. As the listener, I can multi-task by also doing the dishes, walking, or driving and save trees in the process.
Tree Pose (Variation) to Remind Us of Sustainablity and Ahimsa
Mantra for the Yamas
I practice thoughtful consideration of other people and things.
I speak the truth as I consider what I say, how I say it, and in what way it could affect others.
I do not take something that does not belong to me.
I form relationships that foster understanding of the highest truths.
I take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation.
My fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.
( You can now listen to the Audio Blog Here)
Why was this moment of the summer solstice so important to these ancient people who created this monumental arrangement of huge rocks?
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There are a number of myths surrounding these stones. No one knows specifically why they built Stonehenge because it was produced by a culture that left no written records, but for some reason, it was arranged to face the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.
Rising up to 30 feet tall and weighing up to 25 tons each, this circular formation of 93 rocks or quarried stones form the Stonehenge circle.
This ring of standing stones, like the circle shape of the crown chakra, may have been built as a symbol of "peace and unity", indicated in part by the fact that at the time of its construction, Britain's Neolithic people were experiencing a period of cultural unification (according to a team of British researchers led by Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield).
From what scientists can tell, Salisbury Plain was considered to be a sacred area long before Stonehenge itself was constructed. The presence of abundant animals for hunting may have led people to consider the area sacred. The solstices must have controlled human activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the controlling of winter storage between harvests.
This space was also specially chosen in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. It can be referred to as the domain of the dead. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were buried there in ancient times. Similarly, B.K.S. Iyengar believes, “The union of nature and soul removes the veil of ignorance that covers our intelligence.”
Burial Mounds- Photo Credit: Trip Advisor.com
To signify even further that this is a sacred place, worthy of spiritual recognition, the external wall is made up of sarsen sandstone and the internal horseshoe is made up of bluestones. Bluestones were mysteriously hauled nearly 200 miles from South Wales, a major technical accomplishment at the time. Various authors have suggested that supernatural methods were used to move these enormous rocks that were perhaps impossible to move otherwise due to their massive size.
Researchers from the Royal College of Art in London have discovered that bluestones possess unusual acoustic properties and when they are struck they respond with a loud clanging noise. In certain ancient cultures rocks that ring out, known as lithophones, were believed to contain mystic or healing powers. Therefore, Stonehenge has a history of association with rituals. The presence of these ringing rocks seems to support the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a place for healing.
Our Crown Chakra, Sahaswara, is our source of enlightenment and spiritual connection to all that is. This connection takes the form of a circle, like a crown. When this chakra is not in balance, complications can be confusion, a lack of connection, and an inability to function practically. We tend to doubt everything we’ve known to be true. On the other hand, “Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together,” states B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Life.
The concept of the Crown Chakra seems to have been carried over through many different cultures and time periods. Crowns have been used as a symbol to indicate beings who were believed to be ordained by the gods. The crown traditionally represents power, legitimacy, honor, as well as immortality. Similar to the balanced Crown Chakra that represents our connection with the divine, and higher perspectives.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Further, our Crown Chakra is the color purple. Purple’s rarity in nature and the expense of creating the color and has given it a supernatural association for centuries. Purple was used primarily for garments of the emperors or privileged individuals. During Roman times, it would take approximately 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye, barely enough for dying a single toga.
The Crown Chakra is associated with the brain and nervous system. Purple is also the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow. Because of its high frequency, purples has been used in the care of nervous disorders because they have shown to help balance the mind and transform obsessions and fears.
Photo Credit: by Dominik Marciszewski
Could this combination of the summer solstice, representing life, and the Winter Solstice, representing death, combined in a circle, be a symbol for the circle of life and the wheels of samsara? Feeling enlightened with a balanced Crown Chakra is experiencing unity that everything is connected at a fundamental level. Ultimately, B.K.S. Iyengar teaches, “Spirituality is not some external goal that one must seek, but a part of the divine core of each of us, which we must reveal.”
Photo Credit: HumanityHealing.com
In addition, related to light and stones, B.K.S. Iyengar reminds us, “The hardness of a diamond is part of its usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it.”
How can you let your light shine through this summer?
Yoga Poses to Open Your Crown Chakra
I move towards light and enlightenment.
I am grateful for everything that I have had and everything that I will have.
I am open to letting go of my attachments.
I feel unified and connected within my life and with all living things.
I am conscious of this present moment.
I feel lightness and openness to the bigger picture.
Me and Deni
Huffing and puffing, I arrived at the top of this pass, 15, 225 feet above sea level.
Literally breathless, I stood in awe of this majestic peak, soaring another 5,000 feet above to its summit at 20,574.
Deep inhale through the nose, quick exhale through the mouth. This technique allowed me to receive more oxygen in my body.
Salkantay Mountain is a large, steep peak. The word meaning wild or invincible, and is often translated as "Savage Mountain." Very few have actually survived a rock climbing adventure up to its peak.
Salkantay lies north of Machu Picchu and is the highest peak of the Willkapampa mountain range, part of the Peruvian Andes. The Incas associated the alignment of Salkantay with concepts of rain and fertility, and they considered this mountain to be one of the principal deities controlling weather and fertility in the region west of Cusco.
View of Salkantay from Machu Picchu
For centuries, the Incas have honored each mountain or Apu as a unique, divine consciousness. Salkantay is a female apu. Apu literally means lord, god, or supreme being. According to Inca philosophy, an Apu can assist and work with any person, near or far, who makes contact with that particular Apu and asks for the Apu's assistance or intervention as the spirit of the sacred mountain, home of the ancestors and the most powerful of all nature spirits.
Therefore, my guide gathered us into a circle to have a ceremony to Apu Salkantay as a chance to reconnect with pachamama (Mother Earth), the Universe, the world of living energies and with our Source (the Divine within). B.K.S. Iyengar states in Light on Life, “There is a universal reality in ourselves that aligns us with a universal reality that is everywhere.”
Salkantay is the domain of the unmanifested, formless inspiration. In this rock ceremony, we closed our eyes and filled our heart with gratitude for what we have already experienced in life and what we hope to manifest in our future.
Eckhart Tolle reminds us in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” We each chose a unique stone from the trail, and placed it onto the larger pile of stones as our offering to Apu Salkantay, looking at the dozens, if not hundreds, that still stood among the peaks of Mt. Salkantay, made by previous trekkers.
“They represent the mountains,” proclaimed my guide and I realized our rock statues were like miniature-sized mountain replicas. According to Andean beliefs, Victor furthered, “the mountains are our gods, they are our protectors, and our sources of life, because they bring us water, which sustains us.” We took a moment to meditate on an intention to infuse within our offering, and my heart was filled with warmth, joy, and an overwhelm of connectedness. I almost cried during this extremely spiritual moment.
Dhyana is the 7th Petal in Pantajali’s Path to Enlightenment. It means worship, or profound and abstract meditation. It is perfect contemplation. The concept holds that when one focuses their mind in concentration on an object, such as the rock or the mountain, the mind is transformed into the shape of the object. Hence, when one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and they know their true nature, the divine within.
The mountain has such a constancy, power, and yet absolute stillness in the face of all change, weathering all storms. This power filled me with wonder as I constantly turned back for another glance on my way down.
We have all experienced these moments at one time or another. Some people have these moments of enlightenment after experiencing a miracle. Life will no longer be solely about you and your desires. There is a feeling of unity. It is the way of transcending the ego. We begin to live with gratitude, faith and trust, rather than filled with fear and anxiety. After these moments in our life, we try to live with more awareness, which is the part of you that is “I am” and runs deeper that the voice of your thoughts. “What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that… Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. … The ultimate purpose of human existence, your purpose, is to bring that power into this world” (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth).
Yoga Poses for Dhyana
Mantra for Dhyana & Consciousness
I listen to the wisdom of the Universe.
I live in the present moment.
I am grateful for all the goodness in my life.
I am open to divine wisdom.
I feel unity and connectedness.
After setting my bags down at the hostel, I ventured out to take in my first experiences of the extremely colorful city, Cusco, the former Inca capital and now gateway to Machu Picchu, in Peru.
I wondered over to the Centro Mercado to get an idea of all of the options for souvenirs and gifts to bring back for myself and my friends.
Cusco has one of the largest varieties of arts and crafts on earth. This feast for your eyes can be overwhelming. I found it challenging to focus on one object with so many objects coming at me. The assortment of color, creativity and multiple functions of Peru’s folk art has made it a fundamental activity, not just for Peru’s cultural identity, but also as a way of life for thousands of families and even entire communities. They have an extensive range of handmade production, with much of it an inheritance from their Inca ancestors.
I was drawn to many of the alpaca and llama fabrics. Alpacas and llamas have been bred in South America for thousands of years. These camel and sheep-like creatures were a crucial component of ancient life in the Andes, as it provided not only warm clothing, but also meat. Also known as "The Fiber of the Gods", Alpaca was used to make clothing for royalty. They were first domesticated by the ancient tribes of the Andean highlands. Two-thousand-year-old Paracas textiles are thought to include alpaca fiber.
Alpaca hair is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and is hypoallergenic. Then and now, alpaca is used primarily for clothing, especially sweaters. Because it was coarser than alpaca, Llama wool is used mostly for utilitarian items such as outer clothing, blankets, ropes, rugs, hats, mitts, scarves, leg-warmers, and backpacks.
Further shoes, purses, and paintings have intricate patterns from a mix of materials like leather, watercolor, and wool with triangles, llamas, stripes, swirls, and tassels galore!
Just ahead, I spotted my first real life llama! And, it’s a baby! I pull out my phone to snap a photo of the lady walking through the street with it. She is dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing with a thick wool skirt and a hat. She has a second hat on as well, probably for sale. She turns around and catches my excited expression. In a mix between Spanish and English she expresses that a photo with the llama will cost me only 20 Peruvian Soles. I hadn’t quite yet registered the exact currency exchange with dollars, but somehow that sounded really cheap to me and I said, ''yes, of course!'
A moment later, her friend appeared with a baby alpaca! Even more cute! She asked if I wanted to be in a photo with both of these babies! I was ecstatic! Of course I do! A bit hesitant to hand her my phone, in fear that this could be a scam to steal it, I held onto the baby llama and caressed the baby alpaca with a bright grin across my face. This is bliss.
Then both ladies held out their hand for 20 soles each! Yikes that’s a lot of money for a click on my phone! I tried to argue that I thought it was only 20 soles for one photo, but she explained that I got 2 babies, so it costs more. To my horror, I opened up my purse and my lowest bill was a 50. I pulled it out and asked for change. She snatched it out my hand and said, “No change.”
I just spent about $20 USD on that photo!!!
These ladies wondered off with smiles and laughs and I felt completely duped. But only for a moment. It occurred to me at this point that I definitely could have negotiated beforehand, if I would have been more prepared with smaller bills. I also learned later because there are so many options for so many goods, some price comparison is always helpful. If sellers think I've just arrived in Peru and don't know the real value of items, my price is guaranteed to be higher, as it was at that moment.
It is also true that haggling beyond what you know is a fair price, when the disparity of wealth is so great, is generally viewed as bad form. This also relates to the yoga concept of Asteya, or non-stealing, one of the Yamas, as outlined in Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path. This means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her.
Either way, that photo is priceless to me and they probably worked really hard to take care of those babies as they bring them in and out of town each day. They may have many mouths to feed and I only have my own.
This wave of perspective helped me to see a warmth and connectedness in the bigger picture. I believe that this moment of awakening was a part of my Third Eye Chakra, brow chakra, or Ajna in Sankrit.
The Third Eye is associated with extra sensory perception, in other words seeing, both inner and outer worlds. A strong sixth chakra, third eye, often guides the ability to "grasp the big picture." It allows us to cut through illusion and to access deeper truths, to see beyond the mind, beyond the words. Further, the energy of this chakra allows us to experience clear thought as well as gifts of spiritual contemplation and self-reflection.
People who have the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as “seers”. Ironically, my featured quote on this website is by Leonardo da Vinci, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects with everything else.”
The Third Eye Chakra also relates to wisdom, intellect, clairvoyance, insight, understanding, intuitive reasoning, and visualization. In Taoism "third eye training" involves focusing attention on the point between the eyebrows with the eyes closed. When this Chakra is balanced, we have the ability to think reality into existence, we have concentration and focus and a healthy blend of intuition and imagination.
On my final day in Cusco, I went shopping and the streets were packed for Todos Santos, Corpus Cristi Festival. There were people selling in stores, at stands, and just walking up to me on the street. I purchased many wool caps, leg warmers, coin purses, shoes, and even a blanket. I felt finished and ready to head by home when a sweet lady approached me with some of her watercolor paintings in a folder. Although I wasn’t planning to buy a painting or anything else, I felt a sense of Ahimsa (one of the Yamas of Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path), which means kindness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.
The balanced composition of her paintings along with her ability to capture the aesthetic reality of her culture pulled on the strings of my heart. She offered such a low price of 30 Soles each. How could I resist or even haggle that price? I bought two. She was so excited as she asked me about where I was from and what I was doing in Cusco. Then she told me that I was her first sale ever! I failed to ask how long she had been trying to sell, but she claimed that all of her paintings were her own artwork. She also had a baby wrapped around her back. I'm grateful for that moment to connect with another woman artist. My friends have enjoyed their special gifts.
Original Watercolor Painting
When the Third Eye, 6th Chakra is not balanced we can feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond our problems. We may fail to set a guiding vision for ourself and realize it. Further, we may have a rejection of everything spiritual or beyond the usual. Emotional issues can include judgment, confusion, fear of truth, and lack of concentration. Some physical dysfunctions of an unbalanced Anja include headaches, nightmares, eyestrain, learning disabilities, blindness, seizures, and spinal dysfunctions.
An overactive Third Eye Chakra, without support from the rest of the chakra system, may manifest as fantasies that appear more real than reality or indulgence in psychic fantasies and illusions.
One way to become more in tune with our Third Eye Chakra is to ask the Universe a question and wait patiently for the answer to come to you. It may take hours, days, or much longer, but trust that the answer will come.
Another llama story….
A week later, I was exploring the world famous ruins of Machu Picchu and I had previously purchased a $15 ticket to climb to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain to explore the ruins from above. On my entrance ticket were typed in the times 9-10am. All I knew was that the entrance to the mountain hike was near the entrance to the park. Also, the restrooms were located outside of the main entrance. I had been at the ruins since 6am and I thought it would be a good to use the restroom before the 3 hour trek. Unfortunately, with all of the crowds, I made it to the entrance to the hike at 10:04am. The gate was locked shut and the employee stated that it was too late to make the ascent. I was shocked, horrified, that this was the one time that I will be at this location and I cannot experience it to the fullest. I knew that I had a choice at that moment to totally break down and cry with angry frustration, or believe that the Universe has a reason for this. I decided on the latter and waited for the answer.
I explored the peaceful trail to the Inca Bridge and wondered over to another outlook. To my pleasant surprise, there were about 3 wondering llamas. After multiple attempts and terrible selfies with them, I wateched one girl used an orange peel to maneuver a llama over to the outlook. After her boyfriend snapped plenty of photos, they decided to share the wealth with me and handed me the orange peel while I handed him my camera. Instantly, I knew this was that priceless moment, the reason that I wasn’t supposed to go up the mountain!
Yoga Poses to help with balancing your Third Eye Chakra:
Third Eye Chakra Affirmations
I am in touch with my inner guidance.
I listen to my deepest wisdom.
I seek to understand and to learn from my life experiences.
I am wise, intuitive, and connected with my inner guide.
I nurture my spirit.
I listen to the wisdom of elders.
I trust my intuition.
I forgive the past and learn what was there for me to learn.
I forgive myself.
I love and accept myself.
I know that all is well in my world.
I am connected with the wisdom of the universe.
I am open to inspiration and bliss.
My life moves effortlessly.
I am at peace.
I am the source of my truth and my love.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
My Paintings are now on Yoga Pants!
Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad