More meditation at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth

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After introducing the Learn How to Meditate workshop at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth this fall, I’m following it up with a course that will effectively support your new meditation practice. Setting the Stage for Meditation is a 6 week course that will help you to cultivate the key conditions that support inner growth for greater freedom and happiness.

We know our inner and outer lives are fundamentally interconnected. So with shifts in our relationship to our world, we can create positive conditions for meditation. Its like an endless feedback loop of wellbeing! Each week we’ll cover one condition, with discussion of how they apply to our modern lives. Includes guided meditation using the breath to develop single-pointed concentration. Beginner and experienced meditators alike are welcome.

If you missed the last Learn How to Meditate workshop, have no fear. I’ll be repeating it at TYS Danforth on Sun April 10 from 9:00am-12 noon.

Curious? Or just want to enhance your practice? 
Join us for this practical and enjoyable workshop. We’ll explore four different mindfulness meditations, using methods rooted in the Buddhist tradition which are useful and relevant regardless of your worldview. Most importantly, you’ll leave with meditations you can practice yourself, as well as tips on how to plug meditation into your very busy real life.

 

Setting the Stage for Meditation -$100 full course, $18 drop-in per class.

Wednesdays 4:30-5:30pm March 23-April 27 (6 weeks)

 

Learn How to Meditate workshop – $25.

Sun April 10 from 9:00am-12 noon.

 

All prices include hst. Please pregister here.

Wear yoga or loose fitting clothing and bring a yoga mat if you have one.

 

 

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New Year’s Revolutions

calvin and hobbes

New Year’s Eve. You probably either love it or hate it. Are out having a fabulous and glamorous evening, or are hibernating on your couch with Netflix. What’s the big deal? Its just another night. Will things really be so radically different tomorrow morning?

Well, no. But it can serve as a useful… pause. A moment to slow down, reflect, assess. On where we’ve been, where we’re heading. Maybe using a little bit of ritual to make the point.  I figure that tonight is as good a time as any other for it. I will be doing a little fire puja in my backyard with my family, to let go of what’s passed, and clear the way for what’s to come.

When I look back on my 2015, it feels like the turning of a big tide. A year of a lot of growing up and taking personal responsibility. Finding that operating from a place of honesty and clarity really does help things turn out for the best, even if its just in my own peace of mind. A 180 degree change in my relationship with money. An incredible friendship, not new, but one that exploded in joyful blossoms this year. Some major – and I mean major – cycles in my life have come to an end.

Or have they? Have they really ended? Or just changed. Shifted.

Sometimes we like to think that we’re done with a karma. Only to find out later on that’s its not necessary done with us. Just because the page turns on the calendar doesn’t necessarily mean that things are over. It feels very neat and tidy to make a pronouncement that this year is done, finished, completed, finito (said while dusting off our hands). And this one will be different in X,Y and Z ways. Someone online today asked me to pick one word to sum up what I want 2016 to be. As if!

I prefer to leave things a little more open ended. Its not that I don’t have plans or goals, but they are made in pretty broad sweeps, the big aspirations, rather than specific resolutions. Letting go of the fruits of my actions, as best as I am able. Its not that I can’t make a plan (though I am much more comfortable improvising by the seat of my pants), but rather that experience has taught me that things usually turn out way better and more interesting than anything I could ever have dreamed up. I mean, I went back this morning and read over my journal from this time a year ago, and I could never in a gazillion years have predicted this moment where I am standing now. Not ever. So I like to think more in terms of the direction that I am aiming my life in, rather than setting my sights on an exact bullseye in the middle of the target.

If you’re looking for a little guidance in your end of year reflecting, I can share some thoughts from two wise women who helped me to add some perspective.

My Dharma sister and wonderful poet Sheniz Janmohamed has identified five questions that its useful to pose to ourselves at this juncture, to help clarify the picture:

What will I create in 2016?
Who/What will I reconnect with?
What will I remember going into 2016?
What will I let go of?
What do I hope to enjoy?

This morning I came across a wonderful New Year’s Eve podcast from Venerable Thubten Chodron.  Her take on New Year’s? “Its a strange holiday, isn’t it? New Year’s Eve? Its like celebrating that we’re one year closer to death.” She is perhaps best known as the author of Buddhism for Beginners (why oh why did I give my copy away?), and has been seminal in cutting the path for ordained women in the west. I hear such sweetness in her voice, like what I’d like my grandmother to sound like, if I had one. Yet she is completely uncompromising in her Dharma, and you can hear how she is completely immersed, completely fluent, in the Lamrim teachings on the Buddhist steps of the path.

In the first twenty minutes of the podcast (the body of it is on the lojong mind training teachings), she use the occasion of New Year’s to discuss the relationship between aspiration, motivation and creating the causes to actualize them. We need all of them. “Motivation is one of the causes that we need to constantly cultivate to be able to make the aspiration stick”, she says. Having a great big aspiration, even when its one that is far beyond our current capabilities, can give us the motivation to carry out the smaller tasks. When we get clear for ourselves on our real motivation, it gives us the courage to carry out the causes that fulfill our aspiration.

“New Year’s makes me think, its just so funny, because its just a merely labelled day, isn’t it? You get up in the morning, its just exactly like every other day. Its not like its different in any way. Time is time, a day is a day. But our mind imputes something on it and makes everything feel quite different.

And when you think about it, each day we wake up is a new year, isn’t it? Each day we wake up is the opportunity to make a strong resolution or a strong aspiration, to redirect our thoughts and our actions in the way we want to do it. So we can take that resolution and do that each day. We don’t have to wait until a day called New Year’s to do it.

And  then you think, well, why even wait until the morning to do it? If there’s something we want to change, each moment is a new year, isn’t it? Each succeeding moment in our life is a new year, and is an opportunity to direct our energy in the way we want it go. We don’t have to wait for a societal new year, or even tomorrow morning. Just right in the moment, and we change.

I think when they talk about Zen mind, beginners mind, I think that’s what they’re talking about. Greeting each moment in a very fresh way as an opportunity to really be who we really want to be. Rather than each moment as “here’s another moment I’m going to be depressed” or “here’s another moment I’m going to fail”, or… you know, that kind of attitude we often get stuck in.

Each moment is a new year.”

Listen to the full podcast from Venerable Thubten Chodron here.

I look forward to taking advantage of those opportunities together in 2016. Keep your eyes peeled for more meditation workshops and courses in the early year. I’m happy to have added another yoga class to my regular schedule. Join me at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth on Wednesday from 8:50-10:05pm for a delicious Restorative Yoga class to wind down your mid-week and roll you home to bed. What I’m most excited about for 2016? I’ll be announcing some big changes in the coming month – stay tuned! Til then…. wishing all beings deep peace and joy in the new year and beyond….

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“Meditation and water are wedded for ever.”

 

Author photo

I am an urban girl. I’ve spent almost my entire life here in Toronto. I love walking the neighborhoods, and riding the subway is often like entering a magical underground world. But I sometimes have to remind myself to make the effort to re-connect with the natural world.

And then sometimes it just comes for me. A few days ago, I found myself in the opposite end of town from where I live, in the funky, hip, lively neighborhood of Roncesvalles. I just kept walking and walking and walking…

And I found myself at the bottom of Roncy, where it meets Queen St. There is a bridge that crosses over the Gardiner Expressway and takes you down to the old Palais Royale dancehall, and eventually the lake itself.

It was a mild but blustery early December day. The sun cut through the clouds far out from the shore and dazzled on the surface of the water in a  way that took my breath away.

It was like a slap to the face to remind me how much we all need to connect with the natural world around us to replenish ourselves.  It’s here with us, even in the very centre of this big bustling city. All you have to do is look up, look up to the sky. Even if you’re gazing past the tops of the business towers, through construction cranes and streetcar wires, the ever changing landscape of the sky is there to give your eyes and soul respite.

The way that I felt pulled down the street to the lake recalled this passage from Moby Dick:

  “…Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one, it carries you down into a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries – stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happens to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.”

~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 

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The best gift for the holidays

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Photo: Adore mistico by Roberto Ferrarri, Wikimedia Commons

If you are like me, each year as the holidays approach, you vow to do it differently this time. To let go of the stress and anxiety and materialism, and focus on the simple, warm-hearted joys that really matter.

And yet somehow, despite all your best intentions, you end up cursing out someone in the lineup at Indigo, or cutting someone off in the parking lot at the mall, or having that same argument with your sister at the dinner table.

This year, I invite you to take a step that can really help you move in the direction of those positive intentions. Right smack in the middle of the holidays. Give yourself – and your loved ones – the best gift of all. Some peace of mind.

I’m leading the Learn How to Meditate workshop on Sat Dec 12 from 9:30am-noon at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth. You’ll learn simple practices you can use right away for more mindfulness and clarity. I’ll share tips on how to plug the practice into your real (and busy life). Its all do-able, I promise – even during the holidays. Dec 13 is the anniversary of when I started my own daily meditation practice 9 years ago!

Learn How to Meditate

at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth – 95 Danforth Ave (at Broadview)

Sat Dec 12, 2015 from 9:30am-noon

$25+hst  Pre-registration recommended.

 

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Creating peace

hugging earth

The headlines and internet these days are heartbreaking. Refugees, racial violence, corporate corruption, poverty, degradation of the natural world.  Many have reacted to recent events with fear, disguised as anger and rage. Even so many people I know who have directed their lives towards compassionate action seem to feel despair and have weary hearts.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said last week that we can’t just pray these problems away – we humans created these problems, so its up to us to solve them. But I do believe that our yoga practice has a place as part, though not the whole, of the solution. After all, peace begins at home. The first step to creating peace in our homes, communities, countries and world is cultivating more peace within our own hearts and minds.

Right now feels like a perfect moment for the Tibetan Heart Yoga practice. This unique series, from the lineage of the Dalai Lamas, merges our physical yoga asana with mindfulness and compassion to unlock our heart chakras, releasing the energetic knots there, dispelling feelings of separation and increasing our warm-heartedness. Using meditation, mantra, breath and asana, we’ll practice sending a loved one everything they need for true happiness – in turn, planting seeds for our own.

I’m happy to be offering Tibetan Heart Yoga this Sun Nov 29 at Ankh Yoga on the Danforth, from 1:30-3:30pm.

The workshop will also include an introduction to your subtle energetic body and its function that you can apply to any yoga you do. You’ll find familiar yoga poses in this series, as well as some unique to the Tibetan tradition. This is a compact practice that can be done in under 40 minutes – perfect for anyone looking for a simple, effective home practice. Suitable for all levels.

With a very specific mental application while moving through the poses, we can direct this practice to an individual or whole groups of beings. Who will you do your practice for?…

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

 later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere”
~ Warsan Shire

Tibetan Heart Yoga Workshop

Sun Nov 29 from 1:30-3:30pm

Ankh Yoga – 2017 Danforth Ave (at Woodbine)

$35.00+hst. Please note – pre-registration is required for this workshop. Sign up here.

 

 

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Meditation: Before and After

before and after

These images from photographer Peter Siedler’s Before and After: Portraits from Dathun show his subjects both before and after a month of meditation, revealing perhaps just the surface results that are possible through meditation. If this is what his subjects look like on the outside, imagine what the effects could be like on the inside. Viewers can draw their own conclusions.

before and after 2

Could meditation work for you? Come and find out for yourself. I’m teaching a Learn How to Meditate workshop at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth this Sat Nov 21 from 9:30am-noon. You’ll leave with meditations you can practice yourself as well as tips on how to plug meditation into your very busy real life.

before and after 3

Learn How to Meditate

at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth – 95 Danforth Ave (at Broadview)

Sat Nov 21, 2015 from 9:30am-noon

$25+hst  Pre-registration recommended.

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Today I Rise

A dear Dharma sister sent this stunning video to me today. It is so perfect for this moment, as we emerge out of this potent new moon. I hope that it touches your heart and inspires you as much as it did me.

Despite an online search, I haven’t been able to track down the individual(s) who created it. Perhaps it is simply a gift from the dakinis and angels.

How will you rise? Now is the time. Now is your time.

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