Alanna Kaivalya: Discovering Symbols In Life's Journey

Having grown up in Colorado, Telluride was a place of myth and legend. I remember learning the story about how the town got its name as a result of an angry Marshall yelling at the infamous outlaw, “To hell you ride, Jesse James!” as the bandit flew forth into the beautiful box canyon. My mother also had a photo hanging in the house that she had taken of the mystical waterfall that so famously lies at the deepest recess of the canyon. She was proud of the photo because of the journey that it took to get there and the memory that it fostered. My own experience of Telluride as a young skier was that it was the toughest mountain around, and my father wouldn’t let me ski with him on our first trip to the area. He said I’d have to grow into it. And, so it loomed large in my consciousness throughout my years growing up.

Its funny how life’s journey is full of such symbols. Things as seemingly simple as a town name, a beautiful waterfall and a recreational mountain populate the psyche with wonder and mystery. We all have symbols like this, and they bring meaning and richness to our everyday lives. The shell on our nightstand is not simply a shell, but a totem from a memorable experience of communing with the ocean. When we touch it, the experience is brought back to life for us, resurrected in our consciousness as if we still stood barefoot with the sand on our toes. The power of symbols connects us to something deeper within us, and the exploration of that brings meaning to our life. 

If we take the time to work with the symbols that resurrect what is within us, we discover what is most important to us. When we live in accord with that, then we walk in alignment with our soul’s purpose. Symbols are the key to lifting the meaning that lies within so that we can see it, observe it, and work with it in our daily practice. It begins when we realize the symbols; we know them because they are evocative. They inspire emotion, connection, and they kindle joy. When the inner spark is lit because of a legendary mountain, or a small shell, we are on the right track—a track that leads us on the greatest journey, the one that brings us home to ourselves. 

Post-Thanksgiving Cleanse from Mas Vidal

Here’s a simple cleanse that everyone can do after Thanksgiving to remove all the excess indulgence from the body and senses. The Thanksgiving Holiday is about expressing gratitude for all that we have and realizing all that we can give back to others although for many these days are filled with over-eating, boozing and tons of meaningless social chatter.

The Yoga and Ayurveda traditions give us wonderful practices for staying in balance, physically and mentally and can afford us much natural inner gratitude for our life. One to two days after Thanksgiving a simple cleanse-fast on juices and teas is an excellent and effective means for realigning our mind-body relationship.

In the morning drink 1-2 cups of hot water with 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter) and a pinch of black salt, this will help to remove excess kapha (phlegm) from the stomach and lungs. Then for late breakfast drink one glass of fresh orange juice with ground almonds or use almond butter in a blender. During the rest of the day you can drink some fresh pressed green juices and end your day with a vegetable soup. Its important to drink plenty of warm water while doing a juice fast so to avoid dehydration.  Fresh ginger or other herbal teas like tulsi are excellent additions to your cleanse. One can take a small amount of the classic formula Triphala (herbal laxative) to promote intestinal cleansing and strengthen the digestive organs.

Such simple cleanses after Thanksgiving can bring us greater energy, lightness of body and improve the mind-body relationship that is so vital to health and wellness.” Do good, feel good and others may follow your example to attain health and healing.

~ Mas Vidal

Peter Sterios – Courage Has Many Faces

The most visible face of courage, and the one that we tend to value most, is the kind found in front-page headlines or on the big screen. Heroes have it, warriors have it, survivors have it… It is a quality that we all aspire to in varying degrees, yet those of us who work and live “normal” lives often feel little opportunity to exercise our personal courage as we go about our days. However, we often discount the significance of the many little things that require trust, faith, and bravery. Learning to recognize these small opportunities is a valuable skill for times when life presents the unexpected – when a big crisis shakes us from our routine.

When we practice hatha yoga, we initiate a process that by its very nature is progressive. We start with little things, and with consistent practice we build our stamina, our strength, and our courage to face increasingly more stressful situations. In the midst of these stressful situations lie the seeds for transformation – opportunities to break ingrained patterns of reaction, physical and emotional. Recognizing these patterns and determining whether you are practicing with good intentions is not easy. It helps if you have an experienced teacher you respect and trust. If you don’t, go out of your way to find one. And if that is not possible, you can embark on self-study using traditional hatha yoga texts like the Yoga Sutra or the Hatha Yoga Pradipika to gauge your efforts on the mat. Ultimately, the quality of your practice can be measured by its effect on your response to the stresses of everyday life. If your yoga helps you to respond more creatively and positively, then you’re on the right track.

Whether you are attending a beginner class or practicing at home, your first little steps in yoga take courage. And to continue to take those steps over the course of your life will require even more. When the initial feelings of inspiration and enthusiasm wear off, you must tap a deeper level of courage, born of experience and patience. No doubt in the course of your practice you will encounter your own personal biases on your mats (“I like this pose because it makes me feel good” or “I dislike that pose because it hurts”). You will be tempted to fall into the habitual trap of attachment (raga) to pleasure or aversion (dvesa) to pain. Your practice will challenge you to have the courage to stay put when facing danger or pain. By staying constantly alert during your encounters with attachment and aversion, you can keep your mind clear and your responses uncolored by your projections or your past.

Hatha Yoga builds the confidence, patience, and courage required for more challenging aspects of asana, and for the turning of your life’s big and little crises into opportunities for insight.