In a few short weeks, a dream I have been working to bring to reality for the last 10 years will finally be manifest. I am thrilled to say the least. After much deliberation, research, and wondrous brainstorming, I present to you what I judge is the crowning achievement of my adult and creative life. I have finally planned and created a weekend long Kundalini yoga retreat!
From the moment I found out in a Kundalini Yoga beginners’ series at Yoga Yoga in North Austin, TX ( in 2009), I was fascinated by the fact that the ancient yogis of old developed the concept that we have Ten Bodies. The experiences I have in this single physical one are enough to fill volumes and it is yet but one of nine other entities.
I’m fairly certain that this idea for the workshop was seeded very early in my journey with Kundalini yoga. Just think of what you can be aware of, what you can determine and convey, with ten brilliant bodies. Imagine being able to suddenly speak nine new languages, and have nine new mythologies and archetypes to integrate from. I remain floored and as I said, fascinated. Eventually, I started to ask myself questions based on what I was given. If each of the “bodies” has a key, a way to tap in, then each must also have a vantage point, a door from which to peer out from. And...viola! Ten Doors!
The rest was art, and that’s familiar, and magical/mystical.
Within this Kundalini yoga and meditation workshop, I intend to inspire and prompt reflection upon our very essence within the framework of the Ten Bodies of Kundalini yoga. We will journey through each body as a group, pausing along the way to integrate and make meaning of our new understanding of ourselves. Come join a weekend long practice spanning Yoga, meditation, and breath work- all supported by creative/ artistic opportunities as well as dancing and kirtan!
Snacks and meals provided by HummingTiger Catering
Join us in person (12 spots available) or virtually October 9, 10, &11, 2020 at Lotus Bend Sanctuary
2808 Robin Rd, Manchaca, TX 78652
Register @ Ten Bodies, Ten Doors Weekend Workshop
Ten Bodies, Ten Doors
A Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Retreat
@ Lotus Bend Sanctuary
2808 Robin Rd, Manchaca, TX 78652
Day 1 - Soul and Mind
Kriya: Awakening to the Ten Bodies
Kirtan for Heart Center
Break and Reflection
Open Ended Discussion: The Mind
Break and Reflection
Artistic Expression: Your "Freed" Mind
Day 2 - Physical, Arcline, Aura
Kriya: Experience Your Own Strength
Teaching to the Group (5 min. or less)
Break and Reflection
Kriya: Balancing Pineal, Pituitary, and Hypothalamus
Kriya: Strengthening the Aura
Mediation to Know the Field
Break and Reflection
Day 3 -Pranic, Subtle, Radiant
Kriya: Optimum Health
Pranayama for Limitlessness and Vitality
Breath-walk through World labyrinth
Break and Reflection
Games of Intuition
Artistic Expression: Personal Prayers
Meditation for Radiant Body
The pandemic of 2019, COVID-19 caused by the perfectly new Sars-CoV2 virus, has really opened my eyes, as I imagine it has for many. I have certainly been so naive, so wholly unaware. And I see now the actual impact of globalism, fed by the capitalist scaffold. In the thick though, it all seemed like a distant storm to the omnipotent fear of something you could contact, and possibly contract, but not see. Suddenly, working in a rich and vibrant community was a risk. And I quickly realized, I was among the highest risk. My job placed me in contact with many people in a relatively small area. Have I washed my hands well enough? Did the edge of my palm graze the surface of that bathroom door handle? Have I really been careful enough? Will I still get it? Could my teammate die? Could my friend die? Could my husband die? Fear fueled an eventual and ever-present anxiety that led to extreme measures. I chewed my mouth open nearly with worry. And when it came down to it, my spirit worried for me, desperately.
Before the pandemic started, I worked at a residential treatment center for children who had been abused or neglected in some horrific ways. I started as a daily caregiver, helping children to finish their homework while fighting constant mental and environmental distraction and then overcome a deeply ingrained fear of the bathroom as they attempt a shower. It was much more as well, obviously. I couldn’t just be at work. You were “there” for them. It changes you. I then became a shift leader, where several cottages full of children and their caregivers would call upon you when in dire need. At this time, I carried a company phone and walkie simultaneously, and sometimes, (sometimes frequently), being called on both at once. I lasted 14ish months.
After an outright breakdown and a brain/body/mind/spirit freeze that lasted about three weeks, I returned, donning new armor, borne of prayers and tears and sadness stitched to hope. Lastly, I took a mantle as healthcare liaison. Many of our children had complex medical problems that accompanied the traumas of their past. I attempted to talk to them (the kids), find out what they wanted, from us as caregivers and in life. I then attended hundreds of medical specialist appointments armed with information gathered by diligent but tired daily care staff. After, I would return and communicate new medical instructions and then repeat the process after scheduling up to 10 appointments a month, sometimes more. And kids are kids. They got hurt. They get sick. Pandemics hit. Fears set it. Questions abound. Answers...lack, unfortunately.
Over time, the endemic need for communication snuffed out my desire to speak, and to sing surely. In the end, I gave up gifts because I wished that tomorrow would never come, trying to avoid the problems I couldn’t solve. I dreamed of a million ways to die or be gravely harmed to get away from them all. I gave everything and my distinguished sprocket got ground up in a heart-rended machine. On the other end, I’m smarter for it. I make my money the way I want now. I use my energy in ways that are sustainable and the returns are satisfying and complete. The journey taught me much about the mind, our capacity for love and forgiveness, and the sacrifices required for cardinal transfiguration. I stayed the course though, bound to “meaningful work.” I paid for it. In ways I never dreamed of.
My adjustment disorder with anxiety features and adrenal fatigue manifested as many painful dissonances. The first thing I noticed early on was an exaggerated startle response. At the time, I could get spooked easily, and it would shake me to the core when someone would “get me good.” To the point that even my dogs got jumpy around me. I also had very harsh self-critical thoughts and eventually, they could become debilitating. There were many days that needed almost too much effort to get out of bed and face what I had before me. My mood changed too. On the daily. At first, my husband and I tried to give it a cute character (with names like “grumpus”) in hopes that it would be more tolerable and approachable. When that failed, I asked him to attempt to disarm me with cute sounds, “moews” more specifically. That worked for a bit. And still does to this day. But after a while, nothing helped. If I didn’t do yoga, I felt like I was ten steps from nutso at all times.
Then the breakdowns got really ugly. Like, bang you head against a bathroom door to the point of breaking it ugly. Like, bang you fist so hard against your car dashboard console that you cause semi-serious injury to oneself. I became what felt like another person, as many have said before me. I vowed to be a being of peace but expressed anger and sadness with severe vehemence. It scared me and scared me. And people- I could barely tolerate myself let alone other people. I began to despise all social interaction. I didn’t want to risk being ashamed inevitably, in some way. And for a glimmer of time, I grew to hate being human. Hate myself to the very essence.
Low and behold! I discovered that Krista Tippet interviewed Bessel van Der Kolk, MD for her podcast "On Being" that I've been listening to recently. I am currently reading his book The Body Keeps the Score.
In the interview, he makes the following statements. My personal responses follow.
At times, there are parts of me still engaged in resolving the moments of secondary traumas that stand out. I frequently discover that I am trying to solve the unsolvable problems of the toughest shifts that I faced, mostly as a shift leader. Part of me is still trying to determine how to simultaneously help a child realize that they’re holding themselves to an unrealistic expectation, answer a call from a cell phone, and respond to a person on walkie. I am aware that these interactions are not presently making demands of me. Yet, I can take myself back, with ease. I can yet again sense that state of palpable panic, nearing utter disbelief.
I didn’t see it until now.
Until she shared something, so gently, it might of burst like a warm bubble.
“It’s not your fault.”
To hear that and try to truly know it?
I could only retreat my hand upon my heart and cry.
Then I saw a glimpse, with eyes closed.
Myself amidst a planting, knees tucked, resting humbly upon earth.
Earth trenched by hand and shovel,
Wafting in the air.
As I notice, my breaths falls into ujjayi.
Tilling and caring were not enough though.
No amount of watering, or rain, nor warmth would abate.
To cultivate and yet yield not.
Pushing around in the dirt, searching for unseen fruits to no avail.
Sowing pain without restraint.
Seeding panic and hurt and strain.
On the brink of that next moment...
After her quieting words, and my crystalline halt,
I found it,
The ash, all around.
It lay thickly about.
Resting upon all, in sight and mind.
How was I to know?
I, Maek, would maek lye with just tears.
Wishing for rain, I yet tarnished my clay.
My maek has been burnt of late,
Stricken by a lacking,
Singed by deceit.
To be expected to generate,
When bone remains but the only support,
Erodes that source.
What stood could not, not for long.
Not in that state;
When fuel barely suffices a flame,
And most of the charge is lost to ashen waste.
I see it now, all about.
In breathing into that,
I sense shifting forces upon my heart.
Suddenly, I am drawn to novel wakes, and wands.
Words come up, and out.
Monoliths of transmission,
It was not your fault, love.
You, yourself barely known,
Could never bare such a burden alone,
With no willing guide to follow.
Cry now, but do not despair.
Hafiz, and Nesi, will take you.
To Temple Grand of Great Regard.
To Palace of Divine Mind
And the Flow of Life.
Their lead you to your Monument of Peace
But you know the way.
And your secret paths around it’s folds.
Wait not. Want more, love.
Dream. Aspire. Devote. Play. Practice.
Our brain is immobile, and yet it is capable of taking us millions of miles away from our present personal surroundings. The brain may not be able to loco-navigate on its own, but it is profoundly capable of captivating our bodies to obtain almost any requirement or request. The brain is adept at inspiring us to act, to move and accomplish its perceived means via its chemical effect upon every major system through hormones. What power.
Van Der Kolk, M.D. has the most resonant definition of mindfulness I’ve heard. He describes it as “being able to hover calmly and objectively over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.” He says, “[t]his capacity is crucial for preserving our relationships with out fellow human beings.” And that it, “allows the executive brain to inhibit, organize, and modulate the hardwired automatic reactions preprogrammed into the emotional brain.”
As someone who identifies as an empath, I am absolutely fascinated with the particular structure of the human brain called ‘mirror neurons.’ Happily discovered by accident, their existence transformed our understanding of sympathy, empathy, and our capacity to ‘walk in another’s shoes.’ In a sense, we can feel and can understand by experiencing, with just our eyes. Throughout time, we as humans have had to look one another in the eye. In doing so, we attempted to share strength or determination. In those moments we’ve held hands and shoulders, steadied our mothers and brothers in the face of fear. And on the very brink of battle, we’ve counseled our leaders and caregivers. To truly know and trust one another, a part of every one of us had to be able to feel another’s experience. Mirror neurons satisfy this need. It’s also hypothesized that this structure is the origin of the phenomenon of ‘echoed’ yawning. In moments like these, we can imitate our peers because a part of us has seen and therefore intimately understands what our peer displayed before us.
I’ve just completed another chapter of Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky about the different kinds of trauma exposure response.
In reflection, I am most often triggered in moments where I judge I have not achieved a personal expectation. Often, shame is the most arresting of emotions in response to this realization, that I have failed to best some unreachable bar. Frequently, I am sent through time to revisit every shame I’ve ever felt in succession after it. Some days, I can snap out of it. Others, I cannot and do not. Sometimes for hours. Rarely, for days. Once or twice, for weeks.
With respect to sympathetic nervous modes (i.e., fight, flight, freeze, or freak), I usually fall with the freezers, although I am historically a flighty flyer. I’ve fought on occasion too but I’m so emotional that I usually get bogged down quickly with my own shame and guilt that I quickly tap out of any verbal arguments. Physical fights? Not a chance in hell. Unless, I was actually threatened with my life. I often envision myself as I fighter, ferocious and deadly but the only thing I get ferocious about these days is breathwork.
I picked up The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. again. I thought it would be nice to read it aloud, accompanied by the Classical Meditation station on Google Play for ambiance.
I learned a little...
He delivers a wonderfully succinct list of the most crucial functions of the brain. I paraphrased them as such:
The human brain’s five operative functions:
But we can’t do this alone. Humans and other mammals are wired to connect and depend on social interaction to meet the needs of survival. In seeking out our needs and wants, we may encounter danger.
When in a ‘threatened’ state, my gross being encompasses (and sometimes surpasses) the following:
“Being able to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Van Der Kolk, M.D. suggests that an effective treatment for trauma must address one’s entire system, largely body but also mind and soul. We need to reinvigorate the areas of the brain that were de-prioritized in the response to trauma exposure to in order to recover from its seemingly endless grip.
Since childhood, I’ve been drawn to the process of learning. Unlike some, I enjoyed and thrived in a scholastic mindset. Some of the most influential moments and people in my life coincide with wisdom garnered through “pure imagination” that was incited by rare, brilliant conveyors. ‘Twas my senior high school Enlish teacher that the first of several that displayed the remarkable qualities of an excellent teacher I later strived to instill into my own perspective of pedagogy at the end of my training and certification in 2004-2009 (English Language Arts and Reading, grades 8-12, Texas). However, a timely opportunity provided me a chance for contrast and a window into a dream of teaching more than the particularities of the English language. In 2010-2011, I trained and became certified to teach Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, and Radiant Child Yoga (the inspiring teacher and writer Shakta Kaur Khalsa).
In 2012, I seized the opportunity to teach yoga to toddlers and their caregivers, and in return found meaningful experience. After teaching children’s yoga for 4+ years in yoga studios and elementary after-school programs, I realized the value the techniques of yoga and mindfulness brought to developing children’s minds, spirits, and hearts. In 2013, while continuing to teach children’s yoga, I set out to find other impactful and specialized work with children of different and more intensive needs. That quest directed me to work in a residential treatment setting for the past 6 years. There, I trained and applied trauma theory to practice to help children heal from the effects of trauma and neglect. Throughout that experience, I endeavored to reflect and model yogic approaches to coping to the children. I’ve also began to teach yoga to the children who reside at the treatment center.
.. I want to share my journey and respond to the psycho-spiritual needs of those engaged in numerous avenues of meaningful work. I strive to help others create the space and practices that foster mindfulness, cooperation, community, and creativity.
Despite the rewarding and transformational aspects of working with children in great need, the sometimes grueling conditions proved to challenge my mental health, and what felt like my very make-up. After a point, it seemed I had nowhere else to turn but to practice, and eventually other therapy services. My attempt to cope with secondary trauma, burn-out, overwhelm, depression, anxiety, and more drove me deeper into the powerful techniques of restorative yoga, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, meditation, and mindfulness. Through my practice, research, and professional training and experience I have honed an intelligence for a trauma-informed perspective to teaching Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and other mindfulness techniques to children of all ages as well as adults.
Breath in Life Yoga is the culmination of this story. The services I offer meet the needs of the other seekers and their families, friend groups, or professional organizations who are working to change the world. I understand the value of these technologies first hand and I have experience sharing them with many. I want to share my journey and respond to the psycho-spiritual needs of those engaged in numerous avenues of meaningful work. I strive to help others create the space and practices that foster mindfulness, cooperation, community, and creativity.