During the last few months, you might have noticed me mentioning here and in my newsletter that I've started going to see "my teacher" up in Seattle every few weeks.
Laura Yon was my teacher during my two-year yoga teacher training 10 years ago, and she remains my teacher today. She's been helping me with my practice and giving me a soft space to land where I can just be me. She's also teaching me more about meditation and Buddhism, and I'm feeling so blessed to be learning from her on a continuous basis again. We all needs guides and teachers to shine a light for us.
Over here, I keep sifting through my thoughts and feelings about all that's happening in our world, in the United States, in my own corner, and I try to make sense of what's being said aloud by people who are "in charge." And after my last post, I've heard from so many of you that you're doing the same, so I decided to ask Laura if she'd give her perspective on some of the stuff I can't stop thinking about.
She said yes.
And while I had her "on the line," I also asked her about her retreats as I think several of you reading these words would love to connect with her in person. (The safe space she created during our two-year training is one big reason why I felt moved to begin my retreats.)
How does yoga and meditation help you keep your heart open amidst whatever is happening in your own life and/or the world around you?
It is tragic to watch the events of the world and see the suffering that humans continue to perpetuate against one another. The esoteric answer is that, "everything is just as it is supposed to be." This world is a place where there is great love and beauty and also great sorrow. And we are here to fulfill the lessons that each of us is here to learn.
I believe that the fabric of the universe is LOVE and by continually dropping deeply into the places in myself that are connected with this universal energy, I stay charged with a feeling of something greater than myself and of this place. I know that this place is temporary, this feeling is temporary, this suffering is temporary and the universal, eternal energy of LOVE is ever-present, with every breath.
What would you tell someone who feels hopeless when watching the news right now? How can they move from hopeless back to love?
How are you going to be in the world and what ripples are you going to put out into the world?
When something "bad" happens, our first reactions may be based in fear or anger. But meeting the world's events with more fear and anger just reinforces this patterning in the world and in ourselves. All of our thoughts, words and actions have powerful effects, and they create ripples that flow out into the world. Those ripples can be ones of more fear, anger, hopelessness or of LOVE, compassion and understanding.
As the Dalai Lama says, we are ALL human beings who are suffering and we ALL want the same thing - TO BE LOVED. So creating ripples of LOVE, compassion and understanding have a positive energetic effect in the world.
Sometimes when we're overwhelmed by what's happening in the world or even to others closer to home, we can feel guilty when we experience good things, as though we should feel bad because we can't fix it all or because we're experiencing joy in our lives. That word guilt is such a big one. I so often talk about how we can hold the beauty in one hand and the grief in the other. Do you have a practice you use that helps you navigate this?
The power of a daily meditation practice for helping us to find balance, equilibrium and clarity in this crazy world can not be over emphasized! It helps us to remember what we are here to do, what is our work and what is someone else's. Their work is not for us to do; it is their practice and lessons to learn. I have a friend who says it is like what the flight attendants say on the airplane, "Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others with theirs."
Chanting is another powerful tool to help us stay centered, remember what we want to be creating in our lives, and it can change the energetic charge of the moment. When my mind starts to spin or move in a direction that isn't helpful for me, I come back to my chant. It cuts through the busy-ness of my mind and I can go, "AH, there's my heart, that's where I can rest back into."
I think about the retreats you host and how they are full of moments of joy and restoration while also an invitation to get quiet and listen. Can you share about why it's important to get away and give yourself this gift?
Retreat time is so important! It is a time to re-direct our focus from the external world to our inner world. Everything we are searching for is inside of our own heart, most people just don't have the time in their lives to stop and listen to what our heart's are saying. To have an extended period of time where we get to stay inside the space of LOVE and openness, quiet and listening to our inner, innate wisdom and compassion, is essential to maintaining a spiritual life within the modern city. It is respite for our SOUL.
When we come back from retreat, we then take that wisdom, compassion and LOVE out into our lives, our work and our relationships. It is truly transformative!
happy souls at one of Laura's retreats
Over the years, you've taught me so much about how to create safe space and community. Within the safe space at one of your retreats and even in your classes, students get to slow down, listen, ask for what they need, and find stillness all while in community with you and others. Do you feel like the sangha you create becomes a place to practice how one wants to move through the world?
ABSOLUTELY! Deep, deep listening is SO powerful! In yoga classes and on retreat, the room will become so quiet as everyone drops deeply into their own peaceful stillness. It is so beautiful to witness! Being in sangha with a group of people who are all on an inner journey helps us to become present with what we want to manifest in our world.
As Goswami Kriyananda said, "Whatever you are doing at this moment is what you will be doing more of in the future." So what are we creating with every breath - LOVE, compassion and understanding or something else? We get to choose what we are creating for our lives! Being on this journey with others who are practicing this as well is a truly a gift!
Laura Yon has taught hatha yoga in the viniyoga tradition since 1992 and as a student/practitioner of Buddhism for 30 years, she integrates mindfulness into all of her teaching. To learn more about Laura Yon, visit her website.
She has an incredible retreat coming up in February. And it's in sunny, warm Mexico! The perfect time to get away and spend time in the quiet, practice yoga and meditation, and connect with kindred spirits. It's at one of the world’s best yoga retreat centers on the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Cancun. Swim in the beautiful Caribbean Ocean, enjoy amazing food and great company, explore Mayan ruins, snorkel, walk on the beautiful beach, and have a spa treatment. You can find out all about it here.