reshaping the ordinary

dance artist, jivamukti yogini, raw foodie, doula and lover, traveling to perform, create and share my light with the world.

staying the path

as a Bhakti practitioner, or in general as a Yogi, or as any human being who has decided to dedicate themselves something with this precious time we are here on Mother Earth, we start by setting goals, that part is easy… and then life happens. inspiration can fizzle out like a bad romance…. 

seemingly it is so easy to find inspiration these days, just do a search for #inspiration and countless articles images and poems will pop up.
or you can be more specific about what kind of inspiration you want,, #fitspo #inspireart #yogainspo even #inspireconsciousness pulls up a few hits….

but does this ocean of inspiring words and images leave us more inspired or simply more overwhelmed.

unnamed

Krishna as seen floating from my rear-veiw mirror.

 

 

i find the great mystics, the enlightened ones who have come before us provide the greatest of inspirations, some of their texts i call upon daily, to inspire my practice, such as the  मधुराष्टकम् Madhurastakam the Song of Sweetness in praise of Krishna, composed by the Bhakti philosopher-poet Sripad Vallabhacharya, and Tulsidas‘s stotra to Hanuman-ji the  Hanuman Chalisa.
reciting texts such as these, written many years before my time, inspires, ignites and works as an access point to the divine mood (click this link to see Shyamdas-ji’s beautiful description of this bhav, divine mood).

but from there where do we go?

an idea recently presented to me (obvious though radical) is what do YOU say. it’s wonderful to learn the mantras, and the prayers, and the protocol to devotion. but as practitioners of Bhakti yoga, the lila, the play comes in with our own mood, our own ras, our own unique flavor and taste.

hanuman_yantra

Yantra to Hanuman including some of Tulsidas’ Chalisa

 

so i invite you, write your own prayer. your own love letter to the beloved one. devotion is a practice of surrendering, giving yourself completely and with great abandon to something outside of your own ego-ambition. try doing it in your own way, then let me know how it goes!

Jai Shri Krishna

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#stopsuicide

There are two wolves who are always fighting.One is darkness and despair.         The other is light and hope.The question is:  Which wolf wins?  . . .      The one you feed.”

and we have the amazing opportunity to choose, what we feed.

every day we have a choice, many choices; what to eat, who to associate with, how to spend our time, where to dedicate our precious faculty of attention.for those who practice mindful living, everyday is a day of reflection. every single morning a chance to begin with gratitude, and progress with deepening self-study, and improvement in our relationship to others, to ourselves and ultimately to God.
living mindfully includes awareness of our thoughts, our words, our actions, what we eat, and how our behaviors affect our inner and outer body/environment.
however, mindful living is not normal. in this speck in time it is quite extraordinary to have even an inkling of this attitude. depression, addiction, anxiety, these are quite more accepted and “normal”.today is Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּיפּוּר  known as the Day of Atonement. in Judaism it is considered the most solemn day of the year, essentially it is a day of forced mindfulness. you fast, you wear white, you avoid leather, you pull away from worldly distractions and focus on elevated intention setting for the year ahead. emphasis is placed on the themes of atonement and repentance. in-fact it is not just one day of mindfulness, it is a week, called the Days of Awe, a period of time set aside for serious introspection, a time to consider the wrongdoings of the previous year and ask for forgiveness, from yourself, from others, from God before the start of the new year.as i sat in Yom Kippur services this evening, reflecting on the year, hearing the wonderful, radical, female Rabbi discussing how difficult it is to look honestly at the mistakes we have made over the year, i felt a surge of joy, yes, of course it has been a hard year. of course there are things, many, many things, i would go back and change if i could. and yet, i feel i have been mindful in my practice, in the practice of living. not ignoring the shame or pain or guilt as it comes, but in each moment working consciously to, pause, breathe, and make an active choice in response, rather than in reaction.
the wonderful Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön teaches to look to the pain. she says suffering can be a great teacher for us because if we look at whatever is coming up for us; whatever hardship or confusion or misunderstanding we are having, we can often discover the source. what is lying underneath that pain, what is the underlying fear or doubt that we are having and just by concentrating on finding that, we can begin to resolve it.it’s like when the house starts to get a little messy, if you spend 5 minutes tidying it up everyday, the mess never gets so out of hand. but if  you leave it, and leave it, and leave it till another time, when you have the time, when you have the time.. suddenly the mess becomes so large it will take a crew hours to clean…. our internal clutter is the same. on this day, many moons ago, my brother fed the wolf of darkness and despair. the mess had been growing too long, become too large, and unfortunately the resources to clean it up were beyond his mindfulness capacity. suicide is an individual, family and community public health crisis with more than 40,000 people dying in America each year. and it IS preventable! the suicide prevention professionals recommend that we ACT:

  1. acknowledge
  2. care
  3. treatment

i recommend that we dedicate our practice, we dedicate our life, every day. that we hold ourselves accountable and seek the association of others who will help us with this project. that we hold close in our hearts those who we have lost, and those who are losing the battle with darkness and despair. and do not wait for one week a year to reflect on our lives. every day show gratitude for even the smallest gestures. every day apologize to those we have hurt. every day remind ourselves to live gently in the softness of our own hearts.

whowethinkweare

YS 1.23 īśvara-praṇidhānād vā By giving your life and identity to God you attain the identity of God.   īśvara-praṇidhānād vā: By giving your life and identity to God you attain the identity of God. This does not mean you become God, rather, you attain God-like qualities: happiness, bliss and ecstasy. This is your True […]

going back to the begining

some mornings, or evenings, or in-betweeenings

you may ask yourself:

how did i end up here.

when did it begin?

what is the root of how things are the way they are.

perhaps it was when i met you in the dance studio.

or:

maybe it was when mom met dad…

but how did they get there.

you can be a victim, or you can be enlightened. what starts out as a light hearted musing can so easily become a depressing regret-filled pit. don’t go down the spiral, why choose sadness?

Patanjali has some good advice on this.

YS II.33 vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam

When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.

Mr. Lonley

when someone dies, that’s

it. no 

more late night conversations,

no more shared laughs over

hard work and dedication

but you are not dead

so, come dance with me.

Venus

i often think longingly of what i would ask my brother if he were here. he listened to Mr. Lonely all the time, i reach for the phone to ask him about it and realize i don’t have a number for him, there is no magic number you can conjure up and speak to those who have past… at least not that i know of.

you see the images of an empty bench and a beautiful view and the prompt: if you could sit here for one hour with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be.

but what of those past loves, former best friends, teachers, family members cohort, whom at one point in your life you spent every moment with, in hysterical sleep deprived delirium, in random silly contests like who could drink the 2 liters of water the fastest, in all things.

those fleeting loves that were so deep and true with no regard to the duration.

often we create great walls and barriers against those who have known well in our lives and are no longer as close.

this is an invitation. this is an opportunity. remove the mask of ego that barricades your heart from singing. reach-out to those who you once loved.

for love is eternal.

ask the question you have stifled. and be prepared for the answer you least expected, or to be ignored.

after all, not everyone knows the secret.

not everyone is free.

finding happy

our true nature is sat-chit-(but mostly)-ananda:

sat: identity, consciousness

chit: mindstuff, existence

ananda: ecstasy, bliss, samadhi

joy, happiness itself, complete at-easement

it’s been said that your belief in god; that which is the true reality, that which we have come from, will be revealed in our actions the moment before eating, if we take just a brief precious moment to give thanks, to offer back. this practice is beneficial in all things, not just when eating. for example, when beginning a practice. sometimes when i do my home asana practice, i forget to dedicate the practice, i’ll feel rushed, and wonder why i am doing this work.

if i set an elevated intention. generally, by means of the ancient mantra, lokah samastah sukihno bhavantu, the at-easement is instant, as counter-intuitive as it seems, by taking some time, we create more time, steadiness & joy.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu 

लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु

May all beings everywhere, be happy and free.

And may the thoughts words and actions of my own life,

contribute, in some way,

to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

why that moment is important, to dedicate your practice, your life to the enhancement, happiness and liberation of others, why that’s so important is because yoga practices are trying to wake us up to the reality, that we are much much more than our limited body/mind container.  than our limited personality. that we are divine, we are eternal, our nature is satchitānanda, our nature is love itself. our nature is happiness. this is revealed to us IF we are willing, to do actions, which will bring happiness to others, and not be so concerned with getting that happiness for ourselves.

so dedicating our practice with words like this ancient mantra, is the first step, and a very easy step in freeing ourselves from selfishness, and selfishness binds us. in ignorance, avidya, not knowing who we really are. not knowing our divine nature. our eternal nature. so we want to do everything possible to free us from the bind of selfishness, self concern, worry about am i getting enough, am i getting what i deserve. etc. etc. so, that’s the exploration. how to be more free, how to be more happy.

the first three of the twelve gardens of Matrimandir, Existence, Consciousness and Bliss represent Sat, Chit and Ananda , the “ Nature of the divine Being ”, at once the transcendent origin and the divine dynamism.

the first three of the twelve gardens of Matrimandir, Existence, Consciousness and Bliss represent Sat, Chit and Ananda , the “ Nature of the divine Being ”, at once the transcendent origin and the divine dynamism.

Awakening Moon

wandering under the winter moon.
virgomoon

preparing for bed i was called, the sweet lullaby of the moon pulled me towards her. 

i slipped down the stairs and just before midnight went to wander under the Virgo full moon

the eve of Purim, and though i was not dressed as my favorite Purim deity the heroine Queen Esther, i felt as though it was a costume as i pulled on the snow-veralls my warmest coat, hat and scarf and smelling of hay and sheep i was,  perhaps dressed more like Esther than i truly realized.

though it was the middle of the night, i brought no flashlight, the moons glow guided me and i found myself following the tracks of the deer that pass by my home.

Jewish holidays generally land on the full moon, and Purim, the holiday where you are “supposed to get so drunk you don’t remember if you are the bad guy or the good guy.” this full moon provides enough light that you can stumble home drunk.

stumbling as i plodded through the iced-over pile-up of snow that remains grounded at the brink of spring, i chuckled to myself, is this the proper way to celebrate?

just as Kali is the fierce aspect of the goddess Parvati who is ever so tender, we too have many attributes and aspects.

our inner villain is simply another aspect of the hero.  maybe Haman is a misunderstood fierce aspect of Mordecai.

our personality is made up of many ingredients, the temperaments, the doshas, the gunas, mixed together and put in the oven. But as any good baker knows, it is all in the chemistry.

that temperament, the villainous side of ourselves arise when that aspect, lets call it baking soda, is not properly mixed in and a pocket of  it throws everything off. To get so drunk you can’t remember if you are the bad guy or the good guy. Really we are both, all striving to be our best, with a different scale to measure what that means. Yin and Yang, Shiva and Shakti, “Good” and “Evil”, all merely aspects of the Self combating one another, looking for the perfect chemistry, the balance.

the one who succeeds is the one who is given attention and energy.

it is a great fortune to be close to your teachers.

to see they too make mistakes. and to see that is okay. the moon does not care if you make a mistake, the moon will glow just as brightly.

living compassionately, we feed our compassionate side. live your love, and let love conquer all.

why cleanse

a friend asked:

I’m interested in trying a juice cleanse and am wondering if any of you can point me to reputable sources for tips / tricks / recipes / guides… that sort of thing.

the first reaction in my mind is, why cleanse?

i think this is the most important question to have an answer for before beginning any cleanse.

are you doing it for intestinal health? for your skin? for spiritual connection? to loose weight?

there are endless reasons to cleanse, and just as many ways to cleanse, so answering the first question can lead you towards coming up with a cleanse plan.

no matter why you choose to cleanse, here are some things to keep in mind

it’s called comfort food for a reason, we are comforted by the action of consuming. when going on a liquid cleanse (water or juice), a clean food cleanse (raw or whole foods), or even a mental cleanse (kicking TV, radio etc.) we detox, with that comes big emotional release. holding that for yourself as you begin a cleanse is HUGE and will help you maintain

sthira sukhamस्थिरसुखम  steadiness and joy through your cleanse. talking to your partner, close friends and co-workers ahead of time is a great idea, you may even find a Partner In Cleanse Screen shot 2014-10-04 at 8.52.24 AM

having a PIC can be supportive and rewarding, but also has challenges (two detoxing buddies is still two detoxing buddies).

  • listen to your body.

yes, that is cliche, but they usually become cliche because they are true. i once set out to do a 10 day cleanse and on day 7, i was done. so i stopped. no shame, no guilt, you don’t know how your body will react. one of the most successful cleansers i know does her cleanse each year* she does not have a set amount of time, she cleanses until she feels that she is done.  along with the physical, energetic, emotional, spiritual changes you can gauge your cleanse by the whiteness of your eyes, and by the plaque on your tongue.

(*we all do better at different times of year, she does hers in the fall, i’m more successful in the spring, there is no rule about when is best, and no harm in trying! the only way you will find out what works best for your is by trying!)

  • do what you can to take the cleanse further

sauna, dry brush, oil pull, tongue scrape, detoxing herbs/teas. while you are in the space of cleansing, do all that you can to assist! herb combinations to release mucoid plaque, grapefruit and oils to detox the liver, senna leaf and/or salt flushing to aide in the release, enemas (with different herbs for different results), if you decide to make the commitment of doing a cleanse, do yourself a favor and get the most out of it!

when on a juice cleanse, it is amazing how much time becomes available, this is what always sticks out to me.  the time (and energy) we spend preparing food, eating food and digesting food, suddenly is put back in to your schedule while cleansing, and the social component is affected as well. As Sharon Gannon says;

Preparing food is a magical act, a potent, alchemical process,

through which one form is transformed into another form

selecting the vegetables, fruits, herbs and super foods at the market (or from your own garden or local farm), cleaning and preparing the produce, juicing, enjoying the juice and cleaning up are all important aspects to be conscious of. we so often take for granted where things come from, while cleansing, it is so important to acknowledge what goes in becomes who we are. if we are in a bad mood, it is best to stay out of the kitchen. or the adage you are what you eat. this includes thoughts (as discussed in my what do you consume blog post.  to cultivate the highest intention and clear any negativity we may feel, we can pray or chant a mantra before we start to cook, while cooking, and before we eat. 

  • take it easy

you may not have as much energy as you are used to. you may not always feel your best, but this will pass (generally the first 3 days are the hardest and then its WOOOOOwoooo energy and feeling good) but if you have clearly defined the reason why you decided to cleanse, you can take your exercise regime easy, add some yin yoga, gentle stretching and walking in place of more rigorous activities and allow your body this time to cleanse and heal.

so my advice,

first, figure out why you are feeling drawn towards cleansing, then you will be able to find the perfect fit, and if you can’t find one, let me know, and we can work on it together!

making your mind an offering

mayy eva mana adhatsva / mayi buddhim nivesaya /

nivasisyasi mayy eva / ata urdhvam na samsaya

keep your mind on me alone, your intellect on me, thus you shall dwell on me from on, there is no doubt of this.

Bhagavad Gita XII.8

Featured imagewhenever i first hear a verse of the Bhagavad Gita, i go through a 3 step process towards understanding it:

  1. first there is confusion, the verse seems bigger than me and i don’t understand what it means
  2. then, comprehension, i begin to understand philosophically what it means
  3. finally application, something in my own life happens and suddenly the verse seems to be written just for me, in my own vernacular and as clear as the sky on a summers day.

the mind is active all the time. while brushing your teeth, sitting on the subway, even while engaged in conversation, there is (or at least for me there usually is) a little part of the mind that is not present. this part of the mind is busy making a to do list, or prepping an email, or thinking about that thing that guy said that really irritated you. really this is pretty amazing, we have an incredible capability to focus on more than one thing at a time. but we get in to trouble because usually, the mind slips in to patterns of stress and “monkey mind” wanderings.  often thinking negative thoughts, this could go wrong or i can’t believe i did THAT. . .. when searching for steadiness and joy in life, having jagged thoughts surely will not aide.

i know for myself TV shows are the alluring cure all.  i can zone out, without that pesky portion of my mind reminding me of what i have to do. this, unfortunately, does not lead very far on the path to enlightenment.
if instead of numbing out that little part of our mind that is always thinking about something else, we focus that towards the divine, presto! everything will shift in our lives.

in this verse of the Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: keep your mind on me alone.

so we are to focus solely on Krishna, the flute playing, loveable blue guy, who represents the Supreme Being, the divine, the interconnectedness of being, love, joy, bliss, as YOU define it to be.

if we commit that busy little part of our brain, that is always thinking anyways, to focus solely on the highest elevated thoughts, rather than all the other neurotic stuff we tend to think about (i do at least, i don’t know about you guys) then it puts the mind in a very sweet place. and it actually shifts, everything. it shifts the outcome and possibilities in every situation.  it shifts weaving through a crowd of people, it shifts having a conversation with another, it shifts the food that we are preparing.  just to have that little bit of the mind (which is going to be busy one way or another) centered in a sweet and uplifted place makes everything in our lives just a bit more sweet and uplifted.

this makes me think of the sanskrit term chitta prasadanam.

chitta is your mind, mindstuff.  and prasadam, means sweetness or serenity or peace, like serenity of the mind, serene intellect. but there is the other meaning of prasad, an offering. like something that you might put on an altar. a little bit of food, or a flower or a bit of water, something you would offer to the divine. so in some ways, chitta prasadam is to make your mind a sweet offering to the divine.

in Jivamukti meditation, we also have a three step process.

  1. find your seat
  2. be still
  3. focus

by keeping your mind on elevated thoughts, we can bring the meditation practice in to our daily lives. we can let go of steps 1 and 2, and bring meditation (as Seane Corn coined it) off the mat and in to the world. this reminds me of a joke Biff Mithoefer told me the other day.

there were two bhuddist monks and they both smoked ciggerattes. the first asked their master “can we smoke while we meditate” to which the master replied “no.” but the next day the second monk said they were allowed to meditate while smoking.  the first monk was baffled, “why did our master say no to me and yes to you.” the second monk said “i don’t know, i just asked if we could meditate while we are smoking”

just the slightest shifts in perception can lead to the biggest steps of growth!

as the days get colder, lets see if we can keep that little part of our mind that is going to be so tempted to wander about and think about how we would rather be holed up at home hibernating, what you have to do later today and think about what you did last night, and lets instead focus that little part of the mind towards Krishna. towards making even our thoughts a sweet offering, chitta prasadam. let me know what changes in  your life after making this change!
keep your mind on me alone, your intellect on me, thus you shall dwell on me from on, there is no doubt of this.

first and foremost i am a dance artist.

living in community, one that is not geared towards dance, it is difficult for me to (at all times) stay on track with creating dance. as i blend more and more asana in to my daily practice, while giving nearly 50 hours a week service to the Omega Institute, teaching, holding support groups and *sometimes* sleeping, recently i have felt to be in a creative, choreographic slump.

when in the studio alone (as i have been so much this past year), i find myself struggling to focus on choreography. but, ever the optimist, as with all else, when faced with a challenge rather than slumping in to it, i search for a solution. or as master Patanjali says in chapter 2 (verse 33) of the Yoga Sutras;

vitarka-badhane prati-paksha bhavanam

when disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.

so i have been developing more and more tools to lead towards success and satisfaction. i find, when collaborating, sharing ideas and inspiration with others, having some external reliability, suddenly i am inspired. being able to discuss ideas brings a further richness to them.  suddenly there is a fire under my feet and a push to create.  despite me feeling as though i am in a slump, when i look back over the past seven months of the Omega season, i realize i have created two new works. both have been collaborations, (my undergraduate degree was Interdisciplinary Dance Studies after all)ascendance

the first piece i created this season was

Ascendance: an exploration of the ups and downs of life and aging

this was a site specific work choreographed and performed with Julia Suave. we worked in collaboration with the terrain, a forrested hill with the theme of fighting and giving in to gravity as a metaphor for the struggles of aging and the beauty of passing on our dance lineage.  finding the time to meet and work was the only challenge with this piece, once we set our rehearsal times, the inspiration was flowing and the collaboration was delightful.

the second work of the season, which will be filmed in the coming week is;

which came first, an interdisciplinary collaboration with composer Benjamin Whitenack & filmmaker Giacobazzi Yanez.

first

this piece lives in the surreal world of Ben’s haunting hopeful and expansive sound-score and Giaco’s beautiful world of imagery. shedding light on metamorphosis, the constant change of our lives and reality and a sense of being, held, contained.

 

 

i have had many role models, mentors and teachers in the world of interdisciplinary dance arts. some of the artists who have had the greatest impact on my creative process include;

ever imaginative and reality shifting Mary Armentrout, precise, direct, clear and beautiful Molissa Fenley, gravity defying and out of the box thinking Joanna Haigood, eclectic, elegant, deep and at times goofy Claudine Naganuma and the technologically ground breaking Sheldon Smith.

recently, i have had the pleasure of working on a project with a visionary artist outside the world of dance (well, i was dancing, but working with artists from other mediums). Sarah Fimm, an endless recourse of imagination, creativity and beauty along all realms of the arts created a beautiful music video with filmmaker Heyrick Chassé. the entire experience was inspiring.

Sarah lives in an island of her own creativity. we spent a full day working on the project, long in to the night, but rarely did it feel like work. laughing, doing makeup, eating grapes. as a choreographer often rigid with rehearsal times, i learned such valuable lessons from the laid back, while organized, schedule and style Sarah & Heyrick have developed. the fruits of our work have just been released, the beautiful music video for her newest single, I AM.  here is the link to the video please take a look and let us know what you think!

Sarah Fimm I AM

so now, as the Omega season ends, i realize, i am not in an artistic slump.  things just do not look the same as they used to. my work continues to grow and develop, and as nutrition, holistic lifestyle and yogic philosophy seep deeper and deeper in to my consciousness. the opportunity to grow and expand in my own art making expands as well.