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
A Pilgrimage is a journey for your spirit. Many religions attach spiritual importance to traveling to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their spiritual awakening, or of their connection with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live, or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. These religious followers are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed, feel a magical presence, or to have questions answered. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.
Are you a pilgrim?
When I arrived in India in late February 2017, I was standing in the currency exchange line at New Delhi airport when a turbaned gentleman behind me asked what I was doing here. I told him that I primarily came to attend the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh. He immediately warned me to not become a vegetarian. He urged me to not give up meat because a body needs protein. I found this response surprising as I thought that most Indians were Vegetarians, but I agreed with him as I thought that I did need protein from meat.
Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi, India
For most of my life, I ate whatever I thought tasted good. After working part-time at a gourmet French restaurant for the past seven years, I have developed a well-rounded taste for many meats, eggs, creamy sauces, cheeses, pastries, and buttered vegetables. I thought it was all fine in moderation as long as I drank plenty of water, slept enough, and exercised regularly.
However, one of my 2017 New Year Goals was to explore my relationship with food and experiment with what would help me to be the best version of myself.
Photo Credit: JoAnna George
“MMMEEEOOOWWW! NOO! Not again!"
Why are you packing your duffel bag and backpack? Anxiety envelops me as I start pacing back and forth. I jump on the bed, then on the table and back to the bed, desperately trying to signal to her that I’m not happy with this action.
"This must mean that you’re leaving me for another one of your crazy adventures! I hate change! Why can’t you just stay here with me and remain happy and comfortable?!"
Uh oh! Things have taken a suddenly scary turn. Why is the cat carrier out on the table!?!?
Suddenly, Hannah Half Moon picks me up and tries to shove me into that suffocating prison.
“MMMEEEOOOWW!! Put me down! I’m not going in there!”
I brace for my life, clinging to the perimeter of the opening. I engage all of my muscles in terror!
She then lifts me from that space in the back of my neck, that renders me immobile, and before I know it, everything I know fades from view as I swish side to side in this compact vessel. Step after step we descend down the stairs and into the car.
“MMMEEEOOOWW!! MMMEEEOOOWW!! MMMEEEOOOWW!!”
"I hate riding in the car more than anything! You must stop this nonsense now!"
Maybe if I keep screaming, she will change her mind, turn around and things can go back to normal. Abruptly, we stop for a moment and Hannah Half Moon helps her friend, JoAnna George, load the car with more stuff.
I don’t understand what’s happening.
Abruptly, we start driving again, but this time she opens my cage door and allows me to roam free.
I went straight for her lap, my favorite place in the whole world, filled with warmth, love, and affection.
This summer in San Diego, contemporary artists from around the world gathered to create an interactive experience called Wonderspaces. Through multimedia installations, previously only viewed at expensive and exclusive festivals like Burning Man, these visual and spacial involvements leave room for personal interpretation so that the viewer can grow and cultivate wisdom.
What does Light mean to you?
When I was a young child, my dearest memory was a bright white light. It was the first thing that I knew. Whenever I needed a reference of time at ages 2, 3, and 4, I would close my eyes and remember the warmth and joy of this light in the beginning. Surrounding the light were blurry faces that emanated love as they looked upon me.
Many years later, I was a teenager in the kitchen with my mom and suddenly this memory popped into my mind. I told her about this light as the first thing that I knew. Stunned, she exclaimed that I was born with Jaundice and I had to be placed in an incubator with a spotlight for up to three days after birth. This phototherapy or light treatment absorbed the light waves into my skin skin and blood to eliminate the excess bilirubin that causes yellow discoloring. Nowadays, parents with newborns that have jaundice are placing their babies near a window to absorb sunlight four times a day for 15 minutes each.
Now, I know light as my hero and source of love. It represents life, energy, joy, purity, and goodness. On the longest days of the year, the light seems to stand still in the sky.
Performing Sun Salutations are an opportunity for us to give thanks to the light in the sky and the light of our life and many blessings.
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah
Quote from the Parmarth Niketan website
The sanskrit symbol of OM (AUM) engraved on the streets of Rishikesh, India
"Besides heat and comfort, the energy of fire has to do with ripening and maturing. Fire purifies through burning negativites." Healing with Form, Energy and Light
“Transform your home into a sacred space.”
Connecting with external elements, like stones, helps us to internalize positive energies and eliminate negative ones.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
This year, one of my new year’s goals was to “go with the flow”, specifically, the spiritual current. As I was in the process of planning my epic adventure around the world, I knew that I didn’t have control over everything that would happen. I have a tendency to over-plan for trips, including things to do each day, but with this trip, since there were so many transitions to different cities and countries, I tried to keep the planning to a minimum.
When I got to Thailand, the only thing I wanted to do in Krabi was to kayak around the huge limestone cliff islands called karsts. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far for a tour as my hostel featured a sunset kayaking trip every Wednesday. I quickly signed up for this opportunity.
The next morning, Wednesday, was a warm 80 degrees Fahrenheit with partly cloudy skies. I strolled up and down the beach, dodging the reach of monkeys with my watermelon smoothie. I was captivated by the beauty of this spectacular unique backdrop and I couldn’t wait to get a closer look.
Do you ever hear a song that evokes a strong urge toward a particular path in life?
Do these sounds connect somehow with your inner knowing?
Last year, I came across Karunesh when I was searching for songs to play for my ancient India yoga sequence. After a life-changing accident and journey to India, Bruno Reuter changed his name to Karunesh, meaning compassion in Sanskrit. His music has strong Indian, African, Australian, Native American/Aboriginal music of Canada, and Middle Eastern influences prevalent throughout the use of Indian instruments such as the sitar along with violin, didgeridoo, bouzuki, Native American flute, Chinese temple flutes, tamboura, bamboo flute, and various world percussion instruments.
The song, Calling Wisdom, was so powerful that it almost floored me. It was calling me to India. It confirmed what I already knew, that I needed to make a pilgrimage to this motherland of yoga, so I decided to attend the 32nd Annual International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh (the yoga capital of the world) this March, 2017.
"I think I’m going to Die!
This phrase keeps repeating over and over again in my head as I struggle to take another lunge-like step up the steep and jagged Nangkartshang Peak, also known as Nangkart Tshang. There’s not even a trail on this black mountain! Although it is technically a sub-peak of a higher ridge, it turns into a razor sharp knife edge and requires technical climbing gear after the false summit.
Not only do I feel like I’m going to fall, as my feet make quick and slippery decisions on where to step on or between rocks, but my heart is pounding faster than I can count. It feels like it’s going to explode!
Dingboche village with black mountain, Nangkartshang Peak, covered by the clouds
In mid-March of 2017, I was trekking through Sagarmatha National Park on my way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We stayed at a teahouse in Dingboche and my room was seperated from the dining room. After eating dinner and playing some card games with the rest of the group, I decided it was time to rest up for the next day. Without a flashlight or any other lamps, I stepped outside and was surprised at how bright it was. I stopped and looked up
As we promenade from the villages of Tholaria to Lagada, on the bay of Aegiali, our path is lined with a spectacular array of color. Yellow, red, purple, pink, and white patterns sprinkle throughout the green hillsides. I stop and kneel down to admire the variety of shapes, shades, textures, and scents of these wildflowers that chose to shine for us in this very moment.
As I was packing for this epic adventure, 8 countries, 8 weeks, 100 degrees of temperature variation, my friend, Victor, suggested that I write a blog about what's in my pack. I was pretty proud of all the just-in-case gadgets that I was able to squeeze into a backpack and a duffel so that I would find myself "without" something that I "needed."
I packed all of the chargers that I could need (iphone/ipad, kindle, keyboard, headlamp) along with extras, plenty of mini-toiletries, a yoga mat towel, fleece lined wind and waterproof jacket, Croc flip flips and mary-janes, and much more.
But what do I really need?
On a normal afternoon in San Diego, I love to go for a peaceful walk through the neighborhood and picturesque central Balboa Park.
Photo Credit- https://www.doorsteps.com/articles/the-best-neighborhoods-in-san-diego-for-a-walkable-lifestyle
On the streets of Rishikesh, India, I also desire an afternoon stroll, but instead of the spaciousness of sidewalks and streets lined with palm trees, I'm thrown into complete chaos. With a width of about 10 feet on this cobblestone trash lined street, I'm bombarded with barking wild dogs, families of holy cows eliminating waste, weeping beggars, shouting store keepers, and honking motorbikes that won't stop for anyone.
This is an overwhelming experience for the senses. Everyone and everything seems to have a hand stretched out, desperate for me to bless them with some form of wealth. The dogs and cows not only wish for affection, but also clean water and food while the shop keepers are willing to embarrassingly drop their prices just to get a single sale. Those riding a motorbike would be thrilled to take me to my next destination for a small fee. My heart breaks at the sight of beggars with missing limbs or holding a box labeled "ear cleaning kit" I'm obviously a foreigner whose clean clothes and trendy haircut suggest a life full of blessings. I starkly realize that even what I consider to be a humble load that I carry with me on this journey is worth far more than some of these people will ever have in their lifetime.
As each day passed at the 29th International Yoga Festival of Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, India, we settled into a routine and the days started to blend together. Is it the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th day of the festival? Is it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?
My roommate, Crystal, and I rose every morning just before 6am, attended a meditation class, ate breakfast, attended a 2-hour physical yoga class, took notes at a following lecture, ate a hearty lunch, participated in a restful yin or nidra yoga class, and in the late afternoon went for a walk, attended another lecture, or meditation. In the evening, the Ashram would hold a gathering on the banks of the Ganges River, followed by dinner and a cultural show. We would be in bed with the lights out before 10pm.
"You're going to 8 countries in 7 weeks, alone?! You're crazy Hannah!" People say.
"I know," I reply with an archaic smile.
I know that many other people in this world could do this trip, but would they want to?
I believe that I was meant to go on this trip. One of my favorite, most inspiring mantras is a quote by Swami Rama. He imparts, "You are the architect of your spiritual life. Be brave. The brave alone enjoy the world. Enjoy the world by living in the here and now."
What would your special and unique trip around the world look like?
How do you live in the now?
Ancient Greek sculptures, composed mostly of marble or bronze, developed in phases from Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic as the concept of the human figure evolved from abstract to realistic. The Ancient Greeks believed in sculpting the human figure for its own sake and of finding the body to be a worthy subject for art.
Further, in Classical Greek philosophy, they believed that human bodies are the “measure of all things,” as our bodies symbolize our divine soul. Likewise, moving our bodies through strengthening, stretching, and balancing became increasing important to the Greeks through the development of Olympic games and other physical activities.
The physical postures (poses) of yoga, called asanas, are the third limb out of 8, of Pantajali’s Path to Enlightenment. It is while practicing yoga asanas that we learn the art of adjustment, and constantly redirecting our focus.
BKS Iyengar teaches, “Working on our alignment is like sculpting in which a piece of stone is constantly shaped and refined; but here the sculpture, the sculptor, and the act of sculpting is one and the same – our own selves. Moreover, the sculpture is not a static entity, but a dynamic one that changes over time; it tends to deteriorate if we don’t take a good care of it.”
Similarily, Philosopher Heraclitus instructs, "There is nothing permanent except change."
A peaceful seahorse glides slowly in the sea, moving from space to space, using only its tail as an anchor in the stormy seas. This patient and unique creature is historically connected with various divine beings.