Winter Solstice: The Promise of Darkness

We were fortunate enough here on the East Coast to have crystal clear winter skies for last night's full moon/winter solstice/lunar eclipse. The amber-red hues of the full eclipse were striking, but what moved me the most were the later stages of the eclipse, when both the shadow and the luminosity were strikingly visible. It was a stunning visual reminder of the magic inherent in the workings of the universe, and of the rightness in the rhythm of darkness and light.

Winter Solstice has always been a sacred time of year to me personally, as many of you know from the Winter Solstice classes I've taught over the years. I deeply appreciate the way the solstice reminds us to let the natural cycles of our lives take place, instead of always pushing for (perceived) productivity. We often forget it, but then the solstice arrives to reminds us: there is a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to work and a time to rest, a time for being with others and a time for being with just ourselves, a time to embrace and expand and a time to let go and surrender.

Perhaps more than anything, the solstice is a time to explore the wisdom of our inner quietude. I am so moved by the way the natural world invokes and supports this turning inward. When we soften, open and relax into the dark stillness of our inner quietude, we connect to the life-begetting radiance of our deeper nature. However, this happens only, and I do mean only, when we're willing to fully meet and embrace the low point, the dark still-point, the point from which we don't actually know how we will emerge. The solstice contains a promise -- give yourself with patience and genuine generosity to the darkness, and the light will follow.

Here's a winter solstice poem from one of my favorite poets, contemporary mystic David Whyte. Enjoy.

Winter Poem

by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.
All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.


Join me for a weekend of yoga and meditation this September at the beautiful Laurel Springs Ranch above Santa Barbara.

We will enjoy healthy and delicious organic meals, morning and afternoon yoga sessions, beautiful walks and hikes, and quiet time to rest and relax amidst the beauty and magic of the Ranch. There is an outdoor pool, a Jacuzzi, a spring-fed swimming pond, miles of mountain trails and many pristine spots to journal, nap, read or paint. The environment is perfect for relaxation, rejuvenation and, of course, yoga.

Retreat inspires and deepens your practice in a way that is carried with you after your return home-- you will find that retreat is truly the "next level". Our yoga sessions will deepen your connection to yourself and to your practice, and nourish and inspire your motivation and devotion to practice life in general.

~Retreat begins on Friday afternoon September 24th and ends on Sunday afternoon September 26th.

~Prices range from $490 to $690 per person for the weekend, depending on accomodations. Price includes all food, lodging, yoga and meditation sessions.

To take a look at the beautiful Laurel Springs Retreat Center, click here:

Please contact me with any/all registration inquiries and questions!

Our True Heritage

Dear Students,

I heard this poem at a day-long at Spirit Rock last weekend. It touched me deeply so I wanted to share it with you.


Our True Heritage

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem,
shining through and containing earth and sky,
water and clouds.

It needs you to breathe gently
for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing,
the pines chanting,
see the flowers blooming,
the blue sky,
the white clouds,
the smile and the marvelous look
of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth,
who have been going around begging for a living,
stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness
and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress
and embrace life fully in your arms.

This poem is from
"Call Me By My True Names" The Collected Poems
of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Hello Dear Students,

I will be back in Long Beach over the weekend of April 23-25th. This time I'll be teaching a special follow-up class for my more experienced students on Friday night, as well as an all level weekend workshop of Yin Yoga and Meditation. The weekend will have a special emphasis on meditation.

Friday 6:30-8:30 Downtown Studio
Psycho-Spiritual Follow Up Class
No drop in, pre-register by Friday April 16th

This class is for students who have worked with me privately, who took the Turning Straw Into Gold workshop from October 2009 ( not the others), or for students who attended the Psycho-Spiritual Class Series last spring.

We'll review the map of the path of embodied awakening, and there will be time to check in with questions and issues. We'll include Yin practice and meditation practice, but our main emphasis will be on reviewing the teachings presented in last fall's workshop.

Saturday and Sunday 1:15-4:15 Downtown Studio
Going Deeper: A Weekend of Yoga and Meditation
Registration information below

This weekend workshop will focus on meditation and yin yoga, and the specific ways that these practices can support our embodied awakening. The weekend is for continuing students and those new students who are interested in meditation and the inner aspects of the yogic path.

On Saturday afternoon we will practice yin yoga and meditation, with an emphasis on the concentration method of meditation called Shamatha. Students will learn the how and the why of this ancient and powerful tool for quieting the mind and cultivating inner peacefulness, or "calm abiding".

On Sunday afternoon, we will focus on the mindfulness method of meditation calledVipassana. Students will learn the how and the why of this ancient and powerful tool that engenders insight, or "clear seeing".

Both practices are necessary tools on the yogic path of awakening-- without meditation, yoga is reduced to a physical practice, and without each of these methods, the fruition of meditation is incomplete. We will pay special attention to exploring the application of these methods to the challenges of every-day life.

Both days will include talks, discussion, yoga, and meditation. Students are strongly encouraged to take both sessions if possible, since only one method will be taught each day and both are so important, however signing up for one day or the other is permitted.

Registration Information:
Studio Coordinator: Michelle @ 562.260.9402
If registered by April 19th:
$80 for both days
$45 for each day

If after April 19th:
$90 for both days
$50 per day

Friday night only, pre-registration only, no drop-in available

Whole weekend, no drop in, pre-registration required
The Sacred Pause

As many of you know, I am in the middle of my second term of graduate school. While I am still in the process of getting to know this new city, I'm also building a new student base while working to remain connected to my dear old one.... and now i've got a slew of midterms, papers, and projects?? Yikes! Did i mention that my spiritual practice is the most important thing in my life, the thing that sustains me and nourishes me? My refuge from the storm? Exactly what time of day does that come in? Another yikes!!

One of my mentors recently reassured me "There's no way to be doing it all right now. It's normal to feel like you can't fit it all in-- you can't!" These words were simple and true, and yet so helpful. This helped me to realize that I can't have 2 hours a day for practice-time like I have in the past, and that for right now, that needs to be okay.

It's important to know the difference between a consistent style of living that doesn't allow room for nurturing the inner life -- this style is defined by over-committing, over-scheduling, getting addicted to being "connected" and in-touch all the time -- and a period of time in life when we're doing a lot because it is what's right -- a time like this could be defined by graduate school, parenting young children, working on a big personal/professional project, supporting a family member or loved one through a personal or health crisis.

If it's a style of life that we're hooked into, we need to practice saying no, and making space for the things that nurture our inner lives -- yoga, meditation, having quiet time, being outside in nature, reading the dharma, etc. We need to look at the life-long habit patterns that have set us up for this way of living. We need to inquire -- what we are avoiding and why? And even if we think it's just a period of time that we're busy, we need to be honest with ourselves-- does this period of time of being busy get followed with another, and then another, and then another? Now it is starting to sound like style of living that we need to look at more closely.

When it's the situation of a period of time of life -- for me, it's graduate school -- we need two things on a practical level. One: take as many opportunities as possible during the day to return to presence. And not just in a general sense, but in a clearly connected, present, sustained sense, for 5 whole minutes.

: seek out days or parts of days devoted to extended practice, whenever possible. Without this, our well will begin to run dry, and the 5 minute pit-stops during the day won't mean much because there won't be anything in the well to draw from. For me, this means finding a day-long of meditation practice every quarter or so during the semester, and going away on retreat during my breaks from school whenever possible. For others of you, it might mean going to class instead of practicing at home, or going to sit with a group once a month instead of always sitting by yourself.

Below is a link to one of my favorite dharma teachers speaking about the practice of pausing and paying attention. I invite my fellow students and mothers and teachers and support providers to use this practice -- in addition to extended periods of practice whenever possible -- to bring the home ground of awareness into your lives at any moment, on and off the mat/cushion.

Until next time, much love to you all!

"I want to unfold
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false..."

-Ranier Maria Rilke

We know that yoga is a process of unfolding the places in our bodies where we have been tight, constricted, or shut down. We lengthen the muscles that have shrunken from under-use, we stretch out the connective tissue that has gotten knotted and gnarled from stress and aging, we bring awareness into parts of our bodies that we didn't even know were there. As we move and breathe, the rigid resistance of the body's armoring melts, and we are able to breathe life back into the energy body as well.

As the energy body opens, the effects of the practice expand beyond the physical. Now the places in our minds and hearts where we have been tight, constricted, or shut down begin to reveal themselves. The openings that are occurring in the physical and energy bodies bring about a freshness of perspective that allows us to become more aware of the assumptions, beliefs, defenses, and judgments that have limited us in the past.

As these previously "enfolded" parts of ourselves emerge, it is very important to remember the basic guidelines of support that we offer our bodies during the physical practice. We commit ourselves to staying with our breath, feeling our body sensations, and remaining open and non-judging towards whatever is arising. Just as we learn to stay present during the difficult moments of the physical practice in class, we learn to turn towards what arises in our hearts and minds with unconditional presence. Instead of turning away from what we dislike or feel uncomfortable about, we gently "unfold" ourselves--opening the body, mind and heart to the great richness and depth of our experience.

This unfolding process can sometimes feel like a glorious liberation (you've probably felt that before in class during your favorite pose) or at other times it can feel like trying to make your way through a sludgy swamp (you've probably felt that before in class during your least favorite pose!). The transformational process of unfolding, healing, and growing is challenging at times. Go slow, be patient, practice compassion. Our edges are not be conquered, they are reminders of our humanity, and they can be gently ushered into dissolution simply by bringing our non-judging awareness to them, again and again.

It can also help to hold the larger perspective of your process of awakening. What are the costs of remaining closed or shut down? When we are contracted in our bodies, hearts, or minds, our experience of life grows smaller and smaller. Do we want to get used to living in a state of contraction? Or do we want to make a choice to go towards the fullness and richness of life as it is actually unfolding inside and all around us?

I believe in all that has never been spoken.

I want to free whatever waits within me

so that which no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

I want to mirror your immensity

I want to unfold.

Let no place in me hold itself closed,

for where I am closed, I am false.

I want to stay clear in your sight.

If this is arrogant, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

These deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

Streaming through widening channels,

Into the open sea.

-Ranier Maria Rilke