What does ceremony mean to you?
If you grew up in a western society like mine, perhaps you think of ceremonies as formal acts of conventions and etiquettes, performed without deep significance, but with much elaborate pomp. We celebrate events like holidays, birthdays, baptisms, anniversaries, and weddings with traditional cakes, balloons, flowers, food, cards, and fancy clothes accompanied by physical rituals like sprinkling water, saluting flags, opening gifts, blowing out candles, first dances, vows, walking down the aisles, exchanging rings, etc.
However, sometimes we lose touch with the why.
What are we trying to accomplish with this ceremony?
What is the intention?
What is sacred and how are we growing through this?
Throughout the last several months, I’ve explored many ceremonies related to my intentions of deeper sacred connection and personal growth. Ceremonies can be an individual experience, or one to be shared with a loved one, group of friends, or a larger community as a tool for transformation and healing.
In The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life, Sandra Ingerman describes, “Performing ceremonies creates a bridge between the material world we live in and the world of the unseen, the divine, the power of the universe.”
While walking the Camino Frances, the most popular route of the Saint James Pilgrimage in Spain, I encountered a special opportunity to practice, Pratyahara.
Often times, this is the forgotten limb of the 8 Limbs in Patanjali's Path to Enlightenment. It means to control what we take in, or to retreat from the sensual world of temptations. Imagine a turtle pulling it's head and limbs back into it’s shell.
Have you ever heard the old wise saying, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We are so accustomed to ongoing sensory activity that we don’t know how to keep our minds quiet. If we don’t discipline our senses they dominate and disturb us with their endless demands. The senses are like holes in the vessel of the mind. Although we are constantly surrounded by distractions, this form of meditation is about recognizing how we let these stimuli affect us.
Pratyahara is about the right intake of the sensual experience. Strong sensations dull the mind, and a dull mind may lead us to act in ways that are insensitive, careless, or even violent. Just as junk food makes the body toxic, junk impressions make the mind toxic. The body benefits by fasting from food, just as the mind benefits by fasting from sensations.
Did you know that the elements are one of the most universal insights in ancient philosophies?
In Sanskrit they are known as the pancha-maha-buthas, the great states of existence.
Each time we ground, flow, transform, or breathe, we are connecting with the earth, water, fire, and air.
Have you ever felt suspension...hanging or floating, waiting for an action or response?
Did this instability and movement bring feelings of anxiety or excitement?
When you approach an obstacle in your life, how do you choose to accept this bump in the path?
Are you frozen with fear, or joyful with curiosity?
“Haven't you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security,
Have you heard of the fountain of youth?
A fountain is a source or origin of a desirable quality. Youth is the quality or state of being young, especially as associated with freshness, energy, resilience, and vitality. Is there such a thing as an origin of vitality? Most of us associate aging as the opposite of youth, when we become boring, tiresome, or wrinkled. Can we reverse, pause, or slow down the aging process?
"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination, nor both together, go to the making of a genius.
Love, love, love: that is the soul of genius."
— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
So much love at Cafe Gratitude!
Did you know that deep in the heart of all of us is a source of pure, unconditional love?
The Greatest Love is free flowing timeless love with no limits. It is the love that a mother can feel for her child. It is the love we read about in poems. It is the love we long to have. Although most of us have experienced different forms of love like romantic affection, comradeship, appreciation for family and friends, have you tapped into the unconditional love is the highest form? It is extensive, true, and eternal.
While trekking through the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, on my way to Everest Base Camp (March 2017), I came across this sign, Lovism.
My heart was filled with warmth as I contemplated this term.
Surrounded by striking trees, mountains, and sunshine, I realized that love is everywhere all around me. I felt an intense warmth and gratitude for nature as well as my life and body in this place, at this time.
I remembered Rumi’s quote,
Did you know that symbols and architecture of many ancient civilizations imply a synchronistic source of higher inspiration?
There are some close parallels in the meaning and formations of pyramids of the Ancient Maya to the Pyramids in Ancient Egypt and the serpent sculptures of MesoAmerica to Angkor Wat in Cambodia (Mayan Yoga).
December Nights at Balboa Park
With the winter holidays approaching, do you ever take the time to notice the world with a unifying perspective?
Are you open to beliefs from people that practice different customs than you?
Are your traditions in line with your evolving values?
Tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.
Years ago, I was kicked out of a dance club while yelling these words at the security guard, “Let me move my body!” We were being packed and roped into the center of a room and some of my curves drifted outside of the imaginary lines. Okay, there were some actual ropes, but it felt arbitrary.
Perhaps this wasn’t my finest moment, but in retrospect, I believe there was some divine insight to this riddle of authenticity.
This spring at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, Jivamukti teacher, Jules Febre, led a Hip Hop Asana class along the Ganges River and encouraged us to let loose and travel around the space, moving our body however it wanted to move. My face could barely find room for the smile that was brimming past my ears. My limbs encountered no boundaries and my hips whirled to infinity.
“With amazing creativity, we can design our lives and become the driver of our destiny. No matter what difficulties we may find ourselves in, we are able to change them and create them anew according to our choice.”
"In time and with water, everything changes."
“You’ve lost weight!”
I’m surprised at how many people notice and comment. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my weight and size. Trimming down was not my motivation for starting this juice fast, but after three weeks of a liquid-only diet, I must say I do feel lighter and some of my pants are feeling quite loose.
A monster is a threatening force, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is often a creature of strange or terrifying shape, and may produce fear or physical harm by its appearance or its actions.
Well-known monsters in fiction include Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, mummies, and zombies, yetis, sea-monsters, and dragons.
We carefully tied the scallop shells to the backs of our packs. When pilgrims carry the scallop shell it represents our personal journey, the sacred path that we must take within. Starting on the outer rim of the shell, we try to find our way back to our center. Many pilgrims along the Road to Santiago wear the scallop shell to identify other pilgrims. When we see other scallop shells, we are reminded of why we are walking. Even though each person has their own story, the shell itself represents the many different spiritual pathways that lead to the same place. We are ultimately bound together by this oneness of the universal center, the spirit. On a more universal note, scallop shells relate to travel and movement.
Over the past hundreds of years, pilgrims would also be given food at churches and other establishments, and a scallop shell scoop was the measure for the food they would be donated. Further, this symbol guides pilgrims on the way, as a milestone marker pointing you in the right direction, and can provide reassurance at some points that you are still on the right path, The Way of Saint James.
A combination of diverse elements forming a more or less coherent whole, perhaps as piece of art or picture produced by arranging together small pieces.
It is often used in decorative art or as interior decoration. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, pieces of stone or glass of different colors, known as tesserae.
As my flight arrived into Krabi, Thailand (March 28, 2017), I was surprised to hear an announcement, through the intercom, advising tourists to respect the feelings of the Thai people, following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a man seen as a father-figure in the country.
Diiiinnnnnnggggg, Ding, Doooooonnnnongggg, Dong, Diiiiiinnnng, Doooooooonnnnnnng...
Rings of purple and gold outlined a bright white glowing circle. The white light grew, expanded, and faded out as a new outlined circle appeared in the center and began to expand as well. Although my eyes were closed, my entire body was filled with vibrations of warmth, love, and joy. A blissful smile expanded across my face.
Digital Artwork by Hannah Faulkner
At this first annual Elysia Yoga Convention in Amorgos, Greece in April 2017, Yoga and Wellness leaders from around the world gathered to resonate together under a high frequency. Lying in the open space of sound, I felt a deep connection within my body. My mind was clear as it allowed the sound to penetrate every cell of every organ. This alignment was not only taking place within my body, but also within the whole room as David Kennet swarmed around us with crystal and metal Tibetan singing bowls, chimes, and dynamic shamanic chants.
Tiny hot fragments massaged the heel of my foot, then the arch, ball, and in between my toes. My calf muscles extended and tightened with each step. Suddenly, the refreshing edge of the vast sea snuck through my feet and ankles, bringing my awareness to its icy trace. From admiring the organic wind and sea layered auburn, ginger, and beige rock formations, to the contrast and patterns in the black and white sand, my attention was once again redirected to the sparkling stones all around me.
After a long day on my feet, the first thing I want to do is to rest them. Whether I’m trekking 10-20 miles a day with a heavy backpack, teaching, serving tables at a restaurant, or even sitting and writing, my body craves relaxing restoration. My favorite pose to recover and heal from a long day is Legs-Up-The-Wall and it can be practiced almost anywhere that you have access to wall and enough space to lay your back down against the corner. You can add blocks, blankets and bolsters to feel more supported and increase your energy through a back-bend, but the basic posture itself does miracles inside of our bodies.
The other day a friend, Ashlee, told me that I must have been a cat in my previous life. She was trying to make sense of the phenomenon of why animals, and often times cats, are so attracted to me. But, I haven’t always been this way. I used to be afraid of animals and tried to steer clear of them for most of my life.
It wasn’t until I started doing yoga (Yoga One San Diego), that I’ve made a connection with these beings. The more I became centered and found inner peace and awakening, the more animals liked to be in my aura.
Two-year-old Stephen pointed and stumbled closer to these flighty creatures. Only stopping for moments to chirp, the birds at the ruins of Herculaneum, in Italy (April 2017), would float from room to room with an air of mystery and lightness.
Stephen’s curiosity was piqued at this concept of creatures that can both stand and fly.
Photo Credit: Nicoleta n Shawn Photography
When was the last time you marveled at these feathered friends?
" At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid…
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution