Summer Solstice One Day Retreat

Saturday, June 21, 9:00am-4:30pm
Blueberry Gardens Wellness Center

Kelly-9083_2This one day getaway is designed for you to be able to step out of your everyday routine to gain some perspective for yourself. Yoga and its accompanying practices of meditation, yoga nidra, chanting, and healthy eating assist you in letting go of patterns in your life that are constricting. Then you become able to make space for yourself to be the creative, loving person you already are but for which you might not always have time. It is not just living, it is thriving. This year, before the long sultry dog days of summer settle in, give yourself the gift of peace and contentment. When you nourish yourself, your friends and family, your community, even the planet will benefit. Celebrate the summer solstice with Certified Holistic Health Coach and vegan chef Ingrid Benecke and Kelly Fisher, E-RYT 500, of Wildflower Yoga on this one day wellness retreat at Blueberry Gardens.

Register online now! $120 if registered by May 18 includes delicious, fresh and local lunch. ($140 if registered after May 18)

9:00–9:45am Introductions, tea or raw juice
9:45–11:15am Asana class with Kelly — flow, standing poses, and backbends
11:15–12:00pm Yoga nidra — deep guided relaxation Vegetarian lunch
12:00–1:00pm Lunch
1:00–1:45pm Discussion on food and nutrition with Ingrid
1:45–2:30pm Mauna vrata — conscious silence
2:30-3:00pm Kirtan, chanting
3:00-4:00pm Asana class with Kelly — seated poses and forward bends
4:00-4:30pm Meditation and Closing

What to Wear and Bring
Wear comfortable yoga clothes and bring your sticky mat. The studio has props available but feel free to bring your own if you prefer. Please bring your journal and something to write with. To avoid unnecessary waste, please bring reusable eating utensils and a cloth napkin.

Dealing with Distraction

Photo by Erik Dunham
Photo by Erik Dunham
I am currently teaching a Meditation For Stress Relief course at Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring. We are cultivating a state of witness consciousness in which we can sit and accept whatever thought or feeling arises as it happens by observing without passing judgement. Recently a student asked me about how she can maintain better focus when she is sitting because she seems to always notice sounds — someone walking, a cough, a siren in the distance. Here is my response:

Sustaining focus is a big part of the practice! There will always be things that distract us, so first of all, just knowing that is the case can help relieve you of some of the burden of “should.” For example, “I should have better focus than I do,” or “I should be able to sit still and not be distracted for longer than 2 minutes!” When something distracts you, it is natural to notice it, but can you notice it without falling into the “should” trap or without having a physical reaction, like the adrenaline rush if it is a loud, scary noise for example. Simply notice it and return your attention to your point of focus for your practice. (Unless that loud scary noise is actually a warning of impending danger. Must beware of danger.) Continually returning your awareness to your point of focus is major.

So the question is not necessarily how can I sustain better focus? But the question becomes, how can I accept fully each moment as it arises? If that moment is one of silence and focus, all the better; if that moment is one of a distracting noise, or a phone call, or an appointment that you do not want to attend, can you allow yourself to be in that moment without getting too caught up in the drama, in the story of it.

Meditation practice helps smooth the edges. Over time, your awareness no longer has huge swings from happiness to sadness, pleasure to pain, anxiety to calm. Over time you learn to maintain a more even keel which actually brings about a state of “satchidananda.” The yogis call this state our true nature. And our birthright as human beings.

Sat = being or existence, the truth of our lives
Chid = conscious awareness, knowing that we exist
Ananda = joy or bliss

As they say, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. Like standing on your head, this shift of perspective can turn the world upside down. In a good way.

Go back to Durga Mahashakti.

Go forward to I Feel Good… But Not That Good.

Yoga Indulgence 2013

Lucy Lomax, E-RYT-500, and I are pleased to announce that our fall yoga retreat, Yoga Indulgence, at Kent Manor Inn on the eastern shore is now SOLD OUT! This will be our fifth year on Kent Island and we are looking forward to seeing those of you who registered there. As always, there will be plenty of yoga classes as well as yoga nidra, meditation, and kirtan plus free time to walk, kayak, bike ride, sit quietly — whatever you choose. The retreat is all-inclusive. Chef at KMI is always accommodating to any kind of dietary need and the food is always delicious! Please see our brochure below and put your name on the waiting list in case of a cancelation.


Next up: Namaste Floyd Yoga Jam 2013.
Return to: Mantra Wisdom.

Five Acts of Shiva

Photo by Erik Dunham


An unexpected songbird greeted me
On Monday morning as I went out
To meet the day.

Martin Luther King Day, the second
Inauguration of our first black president.
Unexpected in the chill of winter.

Tuesday was colder still
As I watched my students move
Through warming backbends
To shake off the crustiness
Of January.

On Wednesday the wind blew
And outside was even colder.
Our indoor cat wanted out on the porch but
Quickly decided against that.

What will Thursday bring?


Thursday brings a light falling of gentle powder
Cold.  Cottony.  Inviting.

Even if it is only a few inches
I am glad to be alive to witness it.
My fullest expression of consciousness
Cannot help but feel hopeful.

In many ways we are a divided people
But underneath the layers of daily activity and confusion
There is a wholeness
A shared experience

That longs to be expressed.


Many things are changing at the end of the Mayan calendar,
Out of Pisces and into

The sun sets on division
And rises again to meet a new challenge.
Cycles continue but there must be
A letting go.

Let go of the fear of darkness
It is only one way of being.
Your shadow informs your light
And that light is glorious.

But first constriction and barriers
Must. break. down.


I do not know what is hidden,
Cannot know intellectually
But it can be felt.

Daily I practice to sensitize myself
To what lurks in shadow.
The seeds of change hibernate
In darkness

Patiently waiting.  Accepting nourishment
Receiving grace herself
As only the universe can provide.

There are worlds inside,
Planets and stars, moons and space
Not yet awakened by the sunny glow of consciousness

Yet still waiting for that right time.


My body disappears and I become
A constellation.

Seven shining stars in a straight line
My spirit floats in outer space.

The deepest darkness speckled with all manner
Of pinpricks of light.

When my body reappears, as it always does,
I am transformed
Transfixed by the vastness of Self.

My seven stars are surrounded by petals now
The powers of sound, light, heat, water, earth.

Holding me here.  In the wake of history.

Thousands of petals grow and dance out of the top
Of my head
As my teacher looks on.

Four petals blossom and reach out from the base
Of my spine
In my lover’s embrace.

I welcome each one,
Each experience an expression of wholeness.

Playful, joyful, full of sorrow.
Contradictions, yes, but






Next up: I Should vs. I Am.

Go back to: My Holiday Wish For You


Sadhana is one of the first Sanskrit words that I ever learned.  Practice.

“Tantra Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice.” – Sri Anandamurti

“Practice and all is coming.” – Sri Patthabi Jois

Last Friday night I completed teaching a six week special course on Meditation for Stress Relief.  One thing I tried to impress is that practice is really the key — set an intention to practice at least 10 minutes a day for the duration of our six week time together.  They say it takes three weeks of repeated practice to create a new habit, and we had six.  Did any students make that goal?  I am not completely sure, but at least the intention was there, the intention to practice was holding the space to actually make it happen.  If not now, some day.

So last week I was all prepared to offer a great meditation on working with difficult emotions, which we did, but not without interruption.  The entire time we sat in the studio at Willow Street Yoga Center in Takoma Park, there was construction going on directly upstairs from us.  This was at 6:15pm on a Friday night, mind you.  It was just little noises at first, but once we were settled in to the actual meditation itself, twice — not once, but twice — some heavy object like a drill or something was dropped. In the midst of (relative) silence, an abrupt, harsh, jarring noise.

When you are so in tune with your breath, you can really feel all the ways in which a loud jarring noise affects you.  Tendrils of sensation immediately fanned out from my ears to my belly to my skin.  My adrenaline kicked up a notch.  I can only imagine what it was like for my students. So, a gentle reminder, we are in a safe place, the ceiling is not going to come crashing down around us, please return to the flow of your breath.  And then the BANG happened again.

It reminded me of a Spiritual Warrior Camp I once attended.  Near Scranton, Pennsylvania, about ten years ago, my suite-mate at the time and I decided to take a week and practice meditation with fellow yogis who wanted to kick up their sadhana experience.  And kick it up we did.  We would wake early, 5am, and meditate.  We practiced meditation five times each day – early morning, before each meal, and before bed.  And in between we hiked and played paint ball (?!? how is this yogic?!?) and hiked more.

This was the one and only time I’ve ever played paintball, and it was not fun.  There were about 20 of us in this course and we divided into two teams.  Our team had strategy, and we even won, if you can call it that, but big purple bruises on my legs were evidence that I did not enjoy it.  Sometimes you’ve gotta do things you just don’t like I guess.

During one particular meditation, the three yogis leading the retreat had us sit out in a field near the ashram and while we were supposed to keep our eyes closed and focus on our mantras, they were running around us with drums and tambourines and little fireworks that you throw on the ground and make a big loud crack when they hit.  Yep, just like trying to meditate while construction is going on directly above you at a yoga studio.

That part of camp was great fun really.  I learned to focus deeper and not be attached to the stuff that doesn’t matter.  I learned to let the stuff that may be jarring just exist without having to react to it.  I learned let the stuff that does not pertain to me, even though it might affect me on some level, take its course without derailing my plans.  It is possible, it just takes practice.

On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.

Bhagavad Gita 2.40 (Stephen Mitchell translation)

Next up: This Is Why I Do It

Go back to: I Feel Crappy

Full Circle in Floyd

Floyd Yoga Jam at Burnette Farm this past weekend was a rocking good time.

We arrived on Friday with our tiny backpacker tent and camped by a little creek for the weekend.  Some highlights for me:

Aug 31, 2012
Photo by Erik Dunham

Friday night’s Melody of the Moon class in the Buddha Tent with Sierra Hollister that included a healing circle meditation.  It was a slow flow that helped everyone chill out and settle into the rhythm of the weekend.  The blue moon made this experience that much sweeter.

Saturday morning’s dharma talk with Jeff Tiebout.  Turns out, he is a friend of a friend from way back when.  We discussed happiness, movement, ethical living, practice, and cultivating a sense of celebration in your life.  This sense of celebration is a difficult one to maintain, but reminding yourself to live in the present moment and experience this moment for what it is right now is a big first step.  Count your blessings.

Sunday morning’s Bhakti Yoga workshop with Durga Das, aka David Newman, and his wife Mira was incredibly inspiring.  Not only did David include stories about the chanting that we all proceeded to do in both call-and-response fashion and together, but by the end of the workshop, he had inspired so many in the audience to stand up and offer their own expression in the “call” portion of the chant, to the joy and delight of the crowd’s “response.”  Maybe 50 or 60 people were there and many who stood up had never, ever sung a solo in front of a crowd before, but people were so inspired to offer their own energy to the experience, they couldn’t help it.  David masterfully made all of the singers feel so comfortable with their own expression.  Some people obviously have had some sort of vocal training or at least practice, and others could not keep a beat or sing in key… and it was all just amazing and beautiful and fun.  Each voice was a unique flavor in the musical soup.  Every heart present melted and opened.

Okay, so I will not forget about the music.  Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts are one of my new faves of this summer.  These guys are young and fresh and original sounding.  Funktion is another band I can highly recommend.  They are totally danceable… and hula hoop-able!  Trevor Hall rocked the house on Saturday night.  And of course David Newman and his kirtan band shared the love in a way that only they can conjure.

Yoga and music.  Together.  I cannot think of anything better.

All tricked out!

Well, except for leading a fun meditation on the energy of Ganesha on Sunday morning in the Buddha Tent.  I was so happy that people actually showed up for an early morning meditation after jamming into the wee hours the night before.  We played with the mantra Om Gam Ganapataye Namah.  This bija mantra of Ganesha is the seed that contains the fullest potential of the energy of the elephant deity himself.  “Bija” means “seed” and Ganesha, as with any mythological figure, represents some aspect of our own awareness.  In this case, Ganesha is the one who sits in a threshold.  He is the remover of obstacles because he is the obstacle.  In case you hadn’t noticed, elephants are big.  When he sits at a threshold in your own path, he is inviting you to a deeper conversation with yourself.  It is not helpful to ignore him or deny that he exists or even that the doorway exists.  He wants you to engage with him in order to help you move through that gateway to some greater experience in your own life.  It is not always happy — most obstacles in life tend to be a real pain (to state the obvious, yes) — but the engagement, the working with rather than resisting whatever challenge you face is the path to transforming that challenge into something that supports you and your life.

I first learned meditation while in school at Virginia Tech.  It was so great to return to southwest Virginia to actually teach meditation.  Here’s to many more years and good times to come at Floyd Yoga Jam.  Special thanks to the organizers, Shirleyann Burgess and Laura Polant for doing such an excellent job in organizing all the events and making sure that they ran smoothly.  And Laura’s dog Cody!

Om Gam Ganapataye Namah

Return to Hot, Clear Water.

Next up: Ayurvedic Comfort Food

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