Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall 2011 Newsletter

This summer while I was on tour in Europe. I had the opportunity to assist my teacher, John Friend. For the first time, his tour included Switzerland, where he taught a workshop and therapy training. Auspiciously, I was there at the same time and had the honor of assisting him. When I traveled to Barcelona to teach at a yoga conference held in July, John was there as well to teach his scheduled one-day intensive and again, he invited me to assist. It was wonderful to be with him, and I learned a lot.

Ever since, I have been thinking of my apprenticeship with him, and the gifts I received from being around him for a couple of weeks. Let me just say, John is truly one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. In my humble opinion, the system he created, Anusara, is the most sane and intelligent Yoga rubric that is available to practitioners today. The Anusara system's therapeutic implications are so profound that it creates healing in the body, much in the same way that the Dharma I have learned from Jack Kornfield, brings healing to the mind and heart. I have started to call Anusara: "Dharma for the body." I have also been reflecting on the qualities of these two teachers of mine, who, both brilliant, exhibit different qualities as individual teachers for me. I've been thinking about these qualities in terms of archetypes, specifically the "father and mother archetypes" and what this might mean to us, if we learn to embody them into our lives.

John represents the "father archetype". His assistants know that while performing the task of assistance, you have to be ready for him to call you by name and ask any question relating to the Anusara system. I found myself shaking in my boots sometimes; and I prayed in the morning that I would have the right answer to whatever question he would ask that day. Now it is important to understand that he is not putting you on the spot like that in order to humiliate you - not at all. But what he is asking you to do is: Step it up! Expand and be all that you can be!

Often, that entails venturing into the unknown and embracing insecurity and fear.

Jack on the other hand, embodies the "mother archetype" for me. He has the classic "glance of mercy," a quality of such deep compassion and empathy that nothing you could do would result in any kind of failure or deny you his deep and lasting love. Just like the ideal image we might have of a mother, who loves her child no matter what, through success or failure, and whether or not the child feels "worthy" of that love or not.

I truly believe that we need both of these archetypes in our lives. Ideally, we first internalize the mother principle. Meaning that we nurture a love for ourselves, so profound, that it provides us with a grounded sense of security that outlasts any success or failure we may experience. In Tantric Philosophy, for example, it is said that you can never slip past the Hindu goddess Kali. She is the ultimate safety net, catching you no matter how far you fall from grace.

Without that mother principle, no matter how high we reach, how much success we have, how many titles we accumulate. If the very ground we need to walk upon is missing from beneath our feet, none of it will ever be enough. In our personal spiritual practice, we are wise to cultivate the mother principle through the ancient Buddhist practice of Metta, or Loving-Kindness practice. Traditionally, until we sense this self-love has finally taken form, we direct Metta meditation at ourselves. Sometimes this takes years.

Once we have the mother principle internalized it is indeed time to work on the father principle. It is good to be uncomfortable at times, and feel not secure while reaching for the next step, as it usually requires a leap into the unknown. But the healthy respect of the father principle spurs us on to letting go of our comfort zone and stepping into the unknown, and eventually, embracing our courage. When we do this, we enable the larger versions of ourselves to come into being. When we approach these endeavors, supported by the secure and firm ground of self-affirmation, regardless of external success or failure, we are able to work toward our goals with intensity, but also with a lot of playfulness. Should we fail to reach our goals (or not know the answer to John's questions), we can have a sense of humor about it and try again the next time.

I feel incredibly lucky to have found both these qualities so strongly embodied by my teachers and to internalize them into my life and teachings.

I encourage you to reflect on these archetypes also - which one would you like to cultivate and develop, as you are taking your yoga of the mat and into your live?

The last bit of news I wanted to share:

At the end of September, after having come back from Switzerland, I will have a rather complicated foot surgery. The full recovery time will be 3 month to a year. Thankfully, I will still be able to teach, as my community stepped forward gracefully, to help with rides and assistance in my classes during the first portion of recovery.

Honestly I'm a bit scared and any good thoughts and prayers you can send my way, will be greatly appreciated!

Be well and many blessings for the approaching Fall,

Katchie Ananda

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring 2011 Newsletter

Hey Everybody,

Here is an update about a few upcoming offerings and some reflections about my recent retreat.

I'm very excited about these two up-coming Series I'm offering, "Yoga and Dharma" starting next Friday at 7th Heaven and "Grace and Grit" starting in May at Yoga Kula SF.

I've really wanted to create an opportunity for folks who might be unable, financially or otherwise, to commit to a full-on immersion to be able to deepen their practices in a similar way. These are mini-immersions and are sure to deepen your practice on every level. If this appeals to you, I invite you to attend either one of these or both, especially because I will be gone so much this year and it will be a great opportunity to intensify and up your studies with me.

If you have any questions about them, contact me and I'll be happy to answer them. Also, please make sure to sign up in advance - in order make a commitment to the entire series. I made it financially viable to do so and if you are missing a weekend, I will give you the opportunity to make it up.

"Relaxing Get-Away" to Esalen this month! If you are in need of some inspiration and re-rejuvenation, consider joining John Robbins and me for a weekend of creative writing and yoga. This will be intimate and a lot of fun and you will come away with an open heart and new inspiration!

Yoga & Dharma Series Apr 15-Aug 12 Berkeley, CA
Apr 22 - 24 Creative Writing and Anusara Yoga Workshop w/ John Robbins Big Sur, CA
May 14-Aug 27 Grace & Grit Series San Francisco, CA

Insights from my meditation retreat:

Dear Sangha,

I am back from a month-long silent retreat at Spirit Rock Mediation Center, under the guidance of my teacher Jack Kornfield. Just before I left, I spoke to my older brother, Bernie, in Switzerland. When I told him what I intended to do, he said that he couldn't be paid to do something like that, not even for a $100,000.

Well, I have had a month to contemplate just why anyone, indeed, would spend their time this way.

A silent retreat is intense -- no question about it. It consists of a very rigorous and strict schedule that begins at five o'clock a.m. and ends at nine-thirty p.m. An alternating regimen of sitting in mediation and mindful walking is interrupted only by meals; and nightly Dharma talks, which are instructional teachings on the practice of Theravada Buddhism. Aside from one's own thoughts, these evening sessions provide the only "entertainment" available. As, by participating in the retreat, one makes the commitment not to read, write, talk on the phone, or, yes, this too: not to check e-mails!

Every couple of days the participant meets with his or her teacher to ask questions, to make a progress report, and to receive tips on how to deal with stuff as it surfaces. This is the only talking that one does for the entire month.

It is a pressure cooker, no doubt, with no distractions or escape from oneself and one's habits. Jack tells the joke of a car on a desert highway, depicted in a cartoon he once saw. The illustration included a traffic sign with the following warning: "Your own tedious thoughts next 200 Miles!"

So why would I elect to undergo such an ordeal?

When I work on my computer, it occasionally gets stuck and freezes. Anyone working with computers is intimately familiar with this annoying glitch in modern technology. As my husband, Joshua, patiently explains to me, there is no need to panic. It is simply time to shut the computer down and then restart it. It almost always -- miraculously -- works!

The retreat serves in just the same way. It is like pushing the reset button, allowing us a pause during which time we take a look at our lives and see where we have gotten stuck or hung up.

To put it succinctly: It allows us to be fully present with both the blessings and the sorrows of our lives in a unique way. By making space within and around us in order to manage these aspects of ourselves, minus the powerful distractions of our daily lives, we can confront the issues we have been putting off, and revel in the marvel of trying to simply be.

There are so many blessings both in and around us. So much to celebrate and appreciate; especially what we normally take for granted or fail to notice when we are lost in thoughts or simply not paying attention. In retreat, we learn to receive the gift of every day blessings, fully, without hurry or worry of how long they might last.

And, instead of meeting our suffering with resistance and judgment, we learn to accept our difficulties with friendliness and compassion. The great Sufi poet, Rumi, said it well. In his poem, "The Guesthouse," he proclaimed the following: This being human is a guest house Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. Of course, it takes awhile to train the mind to stay in the moment and to greet each guest at the door, welcome or otherwise, with equanimity and grace. Anyone who has ever sat down and attempted to meditate knows the overwhelming urge - while seated and still - to continue planning, worrying, reminiscing and fantasizing; making us aware of how little we are present in the here and now.

Nevertheless, it is even more amazing that, relatively, it doesn't take that long to quiet the mind and open the heart. Even more good news: everyone can do it!

After having spent these past four weeks doing just so, I know it is possible and I know that it works.

In the afterglow, I am left with an almost unbearable sweetness of being, a simple gratitude of aliveness, different than I have ever known. I feel like a newborn, and can be moved to tears by just about everything.

The life I have is a precious gift and I am excited to re-enter it with all the insights and new tools gained during retreat.

Turns out that, if I had it, I would gladly pay a $100,000 to attend a retreat like that again!

 - Katchie