Where Do You Go To Come Home?

I travel a lot.  Not as much as the well dressed suits that I constantly share space and time with at the various airports that I pass through, but a lot still.  I catch a flight, hang out at 40,000 feet, then when the wheels touch down, I hit the ground running preparing, supporting, collaborating, and teaching.  I work 12-14 hour days focused on the work I love, connecting with amazing people, and deepening my own understanding of the transformational power of this practice.  Sometimes I am moving around so much, that I feel my life spinning around me without my full attention or investment of time and presence.  Taking a break is required for me to come back to myself.  I do this every day on my meditation cushion and my yoga mat, but from time to time, I need more than just a brief pause in the middle of the whirlwind of my life, sometimes I need to completely recalibrate and reconnect with that little whisper of truth inside.

 

Ironically, I return to myself most fully through travel.  Not the movement from location to location, teaching and sharing, but the process of leaving behind the familiar and journeying to a new landscape, a different culture.  I find that the ability to see my life with greater clarity and perspective often comes as a result of stepping out of the day to day.  When I return from my short excursions, I return more full, more balanced, more settled inside.  It’s a great paradox that the result of this type of movement is stillness, but it’s true.  You can’t force this steadiness, you can’t get to it through the perfect eka pada rajakapotansana, or through the strongest chanturanga dandasana. Steadiness comes with deeper and deeper layers of ease being realized, and for many of us, our Yoga practice is all about effort instead of ease, ultimately pushing us farther and farther away from the essence of what Yoga is meant to be.

 

If what you are seeking through Yoga is a greater connection with yourself, then it’s worth it to look at your approach.  You see, Yoga was never meant to be a workout.  The purpose of Yoga prior to becoming mainstream America’s fitness craze was never to change your body. The purpose of Yoga has always been to become embodied. The origin of the word embody expresses the essence of the “soul or spirit contained within form.” When our spirit is fully alive within the container of our bodies, when we are functioning on all levels of mind, heart, spirit, and form, then Yoga becomes what we are instead of what we practice. For me, this total enlivening of the senses and the body, along with the opening of the heart and mind, comes through the experience of what is outside of the normal grind of my day to day life.  When I travel, there are new sounds, smells, new ways to look at the world and most especially new ways to see myself.  Through this exploration of the world, I become more intimate with my truth.

 

For me, it can be a week away in deep study with my teachers, or just an adventure somewhere in the world.  The opportunity to reconnect doesn’t require a specific formula.  I can fly to Colorado to receive deep teachings on Sri Vidya Tantra, or I can spend my nights with doors open to the sound of the Aegean sea and my days in exploration of form and movement.  I can watch the sunset in the French countryside with a bottle of Rose and a good friend, or I can explore the crowded streets in South America looking for coconut ice cream.  All forms of the exploration bring me home to myself. All of this brings me back to the Yoga that is my natural state of existence, so when I return home to my mat and my cushion, instead of seeking that place inside, I am coming from it.  And my practice and my life are all the better for it.

 

This is my method, and your’s may be completely different, but no matter what, I encourage you to take the time to step out of the grind, and maybe even leave your mat behind for a day or two.  Find the experience of Yoga that is the essence of your soul, and let it inform all aspects of your life.  

The Practice of LIVING and not simply Surviving

Dear Yogis,

I recently sent out a letter to some of my students from over the years talking about my journey as a Yogi and yoga teacher in the world.  I am going to share a piece of that letter here, as an invitation to understanding and committing to the power of your own practice.

As our world changes rapidly around us and the structures that were meant to support and sustain us are crumbling and transforming, I want to share how many times and how many ways Yoga has SAVED me, and opened the door to my future.  I'm often asked how I can be so piercing in my approach, and how I can so confidently move into uncomfortable places with my students.  All I can say is that I can only do this work with others because I have done it relentlessly with myself for years, and in these uncertain times, I urge you to stay true to your practice and true to yourself.  Here is a piece of the letter I shared:

“A hundred times I thought about walking away, acquiescing to the the idea of what I was "supposed" to do, and giving up.  But no matter how much doubt and fear I would swim through everyday, I never stopped practicing, and I never stopped believing that this was my path. As I deepened my study, I began to integrate my practice into my life, instead of make time to step out of my life for it.  I have practiced while I parent my two amazing daughters, I practiced when my marriage was falling apart, I practiced while I relocated my family to not one, but two different states, I practiced through my mother's life threatening illness, I practiced through the heartache of divorce, I practiced through the pain of healing.  I practiced as I began to rediscover myself. And I practice now, in this time of transformative change.

Every year that has passed, I TRUST this path more and more. I deepen more and more into my practice, and learn over and over again that the tiny whisper in my heart always leads me in the direction of what was highest and best.  At some point on my journey, Yoga stopped being my lifeline and became my life. It wasn't something that I did, it was who I WAS.  I'm not exactly sure when that transition happened, but I am certain that the shift has made all of the difference in my willingness to LIVE my life and not simply survive it.  I am no longer looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and instead I am being guided by the ever present, unwavering light inside.  This knowing hasn't liberated me from pain and suffering, from doubt and fear, but it has polished me and led me to a sense of freedom and love even in the midst of chaos.  

I tell you all of this NOW because it's more important than ever before to find that light for yourself.  If the world is feeling like too much, turn toward your practice and the tools that you've learned to AWAKEN to the guidance of YOUR truth. NOW is the time to find the unwavering courage and determination that is the essence of your spirit. NOW is the time to do the inner work of becoming clear, knowing yourSELF, walking YOUR path in service to the world.  NOW is the time to find your VIRA BHAVA, the essence of a warrior that exists inside each and every one of you.  

This is not the time to project our fears, our pain, our disappointment outward. This is the time to turn inside of ourselves, find our tribe to support us in our work, to dive into our shadows and begin the process of healing, love, and self acceptance.

I want you to know that if Vira Bhava Yoga ever was or ever could be the tribe that you were looking for, we are still here.  And we aren't going away.  We are fully committed to catalyzing communities of Spiritual Warriors in the world. Through tools, support, and community, we are committed to moving in the direction of what is the highest and best for ALL.”  

Bless,

Kelly

 

The Call Has Come

We live in hard times. In one big sweep, all of the veils that we have been hiding behind have been lifted.  Many among us are left staring down the barrel of our own denial.  We have been waiting for things to change, to take their course, and now they have.  But for an undeniable portion of the population, the change was a brutal blow.  Where I live in Northern California, the actual outcome was spoken of as an impossibility and now there are masses of broken hearted, afraid, angry people compelled to ACT.

 

Social media is overflowing with suggestions about ways to get involved.  Write letters, make phone calls, MARCH.  Yes!  Stand up, claim the right to be here, to have a voice, to fight for what you desire, but there is more to it than that.  In order for this work to have a deep and lasting impact on the current reality in which we live, we MUST be doing the same work inside of ourselves.

 

Stop what you are doing and close your eyes.

 

Call up all of the characteristics about yourself that you loathe: desperation, sadness, loneliness, fear, worry.  Stay there.  Look at what you push away, look at what makes you cringe about yourself.  Look at your hidden, shameful pieces. Look them all straight in the eye.  This is the only way.  We can’t keep turning away from what is rumbling under the surface, screaming to be seen.  We can’t expect others to change if we are unwilling to change ourselves. We can’t stay ignorant or in denial of our own unlovable parts, yet expect the world to transform into a more loving and accepting place. If we cannot see our disapproval of others as pieces of ourselves, nothing will ever change.

 

The philosophy of Tantra teaches that what is within us is manifested in the world.  The most advanced Yoga Practice is owning and assimilating ALL pieces of ourselves into an integrated whole. Even the things we want to forget, we accept, and that is the most IMPACTFUL work we can do.  As we assimilate and integrate our shadows, we will also step more and more into the ownership of our GREATNESS.  We will more willingly see what we have to offer, what is loving and loveable about ourselves.  When we do the work of understanding ourselves, then we can move out into the world with the ability and skill to understand others, really.  

 

Judgements and separation exist in the world, because they first exist inside.  If we can move toward internal non-judgement and unity, then our outer world will start to reflect our internal state. So we MUST, start doing the work.  The practices of yoga, meditation, and self reflection are more important now than ever.  It is NOT selfish to take the time, it is the most powerful thing we can do for the world.  What if the willingness to do your internal work was what you gave the world?  


Start wherever you are.  Whether it’s asana, running, journaling or making art.  Prioritize your internal work as PARAMOUNT.  Going to an asana class can be the first step in making radical revolutionary change in the world if you are willing to show up fully.  We are all being called to ACTION.  Don’t forget that the call is as much an internal one as an external one.  As you show up for the protests, call the congressmen, write the letters, show up equally for yourself.  YOUR practice, whatever it is, will make all of the difference.  

The Call Has Come Meditation
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