Archive for the ‘Yoga Retreat’ Category

Long Dark Nights of Winter

December 6, 2016

Winter Solstice comes early to Little Renaissance.  Every year, we celebrate a Hatha Yoga Winter Solstice Retreat on the first weekend of December at Little Renaissance.   We celebrate early before the busy-ness of the holiday season takes hold.

Winter Solstice is a time of quiet firelight, a time to nurture dreams.  The dark clear nights reveal the bright stars.  Late at night, I can sit quietly in the hot tub and see shooting stars trailing across the  sky.  I celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the year with a wonderful group of yogis.  We anticipate the rebirth of the sun and contemplate our own spiritual rebirth.  We see this time of year as a turning point and a time of year to renew energy.

I look out the window and see the garden boxes through sheets of rain.  The garden boxes look spent from having produced so generously all summer long.  Gratefully, the soil lies resting, patiently waiting for the warmer and brighter days of spring.   The resting soil of the cold winter days and nights reminds me that the future holds promise, always.  Come spring, seeds will germinate and take root.  Likewise, I believe the future will manifest our visions and dreams.

For now, while we wait for the rebirth of the sun, we stand still.  Winter Solstice is a time of repose, a time to light the wood stove, stoke up the heat, soak in the hot tub, sit quietly surrounded by lit candles, delve into a good novel, and dream.

Below are photos from our past weekend’s Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat.  This group of yogis has been coming to Ocean Shores biannually for 10 years running!

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Ready for winter winds: Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Pretty driftwood log

Pretty driftwood log

Vast Ocean Beach

Vast Ocean Beach  (Skye and Dan)

Remnants of an old boardwalk

Remnants of an old dock

Group Shot I

Group Shot I

Group Shot II

Group Shot II

A Forest Takes Root in the House

A Forest Takes Root in the House

Collage I put together from Skye's photos

Collage I put together from Skye’s photos

Second collage I put together using Skye's photos

Second collage I put together using Skye’s photos

Yoga: I Love Light

November 21, 2016

Whether he is in Japan or back at home, every morning Don wakes up at 4am and does his yoga practice.  At the end of his yoga practice and meditation, he recites the following mantra:

I am a child of light

I love light.

I serve light.

Light is in me

protecting,

illuminating,

supporting,

sustaining.

I am light.

Don was recently on the Japan tour.  One morning I asked him to share the above mantra with us as we did yoga.  Of the 13 full days touring Japan, we, as a group, had 10 sessions of yoga.  As usual, I am unable to take photos when I am teaching.  But luckily,  Jeff (and Karin) got a few good shots!  I only took some of these photos.

The first set of photos were taken on our cycling trip in Kyoto.  That day we had standing yoga in Kameyama Park.  Since we had been cycling all morning, I told everyone not to worry about bringing their yoga mats along.  And since the ground was a fine white pea gravel, we also wore our shoes.  We called the class Standing Yoga.  It felt so good to take in the clean fresh air of Kyoto!

Debby and Marc forming a bridge of friendship.

Debby and Marc forming a Bridge of Friendship.

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France that means Fly With the Wind)

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France which means “Fly With the Wind”)

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody (pant legs tucked in from the bike ride).

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Last shot for the Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we look we belong to a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

Last shot for  Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we belong in a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

See what I mean?

See what I’m saying??

Then we have lots of yoga photos from the first Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn with Hot Springs/Onsen) we stayed at on the island of Shikoku.  The room we had was unbelievable!  It was like a ballroom/atrium combo with glass windows overlooking the city of Takamatsu.  We did yoga in the evening, just before dinner and the city lights made for a dramatic and lovely backdrop to our yoga class.  One more thing: I had access to chairs so we did yoga using chairs.  Amazing what you can do using chairs for yoga!

Camel Pose

Camel Pose (Kim in the foreground)

Forward bends using the chair

Forward bends using the chair

Revolved Triangles!

Revolved Triangles! (Bill in the foreground)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting crocodile

Resting crocodile

Deeply Relaxed!

Deeply Relaxed! (Jeff!)

And photos were also taken at the Buddhist monastery at Mt. Koya.  I think that may have been the best room ever.  The floors were made  of tatami mats. There is a nice sweet grass-like smell that comes with tatami mats, which are made of rush grass.  They are gentle but firm.  The room we practiced in was cavernous.  There were several heaters which kept us warm.  This is a good thing because it was pretty cold on the mountain at night. The monastery had a great feel to it. In the morning we watched the monks chant, pray, and do their fire ceremony.  It was very peaceful and meditative. I think their good energy permeated the yoga space.  And it was quiet. A very quiet room with great acoustics so my voice carried over strongly.

Side stretching

Side stretching

Windmill

Windmill

Trees at the Monastery

Trees at the Monastery

Flip Your Dog!

Flip Your Dog!

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

Boosting the Immune System with Yoga and Wholesome Food

October 19, 2016

I am writing from Japan.  Japan posts soon to start coming (so exciting to be here!), but first a follow up on two fabulous in-city one-day retreats that I just offered with MJ Conboy of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen this past weekend.  The retreat’s focus was on building and boosting a strong immune system via yoga asanas and learning a few new recipes espousing a plant-based diet.

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Read on below.  I hope you are able to glean some ideas from this blog post, be inspired by the photos, try the yoga sequence, peruse the cook book titles below, and be inspired by the various readings shared in our retreat.

Plant Based Cook Books:

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Books with recipes based on a plant-based diet:

The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage

Salad Samurai, 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-To-Make Salads by Terry Hope Romero

Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Coleen Patrick Goudreau

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

A Grateful Heart, Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles , edited by M. J. Ryan

Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, and Lots of Cremay Italian Classics by Chloe Coscarelli

The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack

the milf diet, Let The Power of Whole Foods Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit…deliciously by Jessica Porter

Macrobiotics for All Seasons by Marlene Watson-Tara

Mayumi’s Kitchen, Macrobiotic Cooking for Body and Soul by Mayumi Nishimura

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A yoga sequence for Immune System Boosting:

  • Seated Forward Bend (relaxes the nervous system)
  • Half Spinal Twist (Seated, twists help to cleanse, stimulate and strengthen the internal organs)
  • Dolphin (like downward facing dog, but on your elbows) to an inverted pose balanced on your elbows (can be done at the wall or with your legs walking up the wall) inversions are excellent for bathing and enhancing function of the endocrine system.
  • Uddyana Bandha (standing breathing exercises sometimes called the Abdominal Lift) breathe in through nose and exhale through the mouth while pulling belly in.
  • Sun Salutations
  • Standing Forward Bends (feet together and feet apart)..when in a wide angle forward bend, you can add twists
  • Arches: lying over a block, camel, bow, cobra, upward facing dog, full backbend (some of these were done in pairs with a helper)
  • Seated side bend
  • Shoulder stand—plough—fish pose
  • Block under your upper back (another way to do fish)
  • Legs up the wall (great for movement of the lymphatic fluids, enhances the lymphatic system)

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Yoga helps boost the immune system by reducing stress and strengthening the lungs (with the breathing).  We all know that psychological stress doubles the chance of a person getting a cold!  Yoga practice lowers stress hormones and calms the nervous system.  The fight or flight response is eclipsed by the relax and renew response.  It also helps by optimizing the functions of the following systems:

  • circulatory system
  • lymphatic system
  • respiratory system (the yoga postures help improve mechanical efficiency of our lungs by conditioning them.  With yoga, we increase the elasticity of the lungs and strengthen them)
  • nervous system
  • immune system

Twists specifically increase oxygen to organs for optimal function.  They also cleanse, rid the organs of toxins, and supply the organs and glands with fresh blood supply.  Twists massage the body and internal organs and help us to relax.

Restorative postures, such as lying over a block or bolster, putting legs up the wall, or lying in shavasana, are soothing.  They help us to relax and they also help build vigor!

In addition to the featured poses and breathing pranayama exercise to help boost the immune system, don’t forget to inject these other essential elements into your daily life:

  • LAUGHTER
  • OPTIMISM
  • ENOUGH SLEEP
  • ANY ACTIVITY THAT HELPS YOU RELIEVE STRESS (can be walking, dancing, listening to music, vigorous aerobic exercise, reading, spending time with people you love)
  • EAT WELL (and eat as much of a plant-based diet and non-processed food diet as is possible_

We also shared several readings (below are a few):

“The food movement is about quality of life. What we eat affects how we feel physically and emotionally. How food is grown and processed has an impact on the health of those who eat it. How our food is produced affects the environment, the existence of wildlife, and the size and characteristics of our country’s farms. It also impacts the local and global economies. How we eat affects our ability to interact with others and provide for ourselves, and it influences relationships with friend and families. Eating and preparing food with those we care about provides a much different experience than driving through a fast-food restaurant or eating in one’s car. How we spend our food dollars determines the kind of food system we create, and the health of our farms, families, and communities. As Wendell Berry said, ‘Eating is an agricultural act.’ With the present focus on local food systems, now is the time to vote with our forks, as well as our ballots, and make positive changes in the food system.”

Marion Kalb, Co-founder, National Farm to School Network

OK, the food we made and ate did not have cheese or meat, but I couldn’t help but read this fun poem by Shel Silverstein.  I read it with gusto…You really have to wet your tongue with a bit of olive oil and recite this aloud.  It’s a mouthful:

Italian Food
Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops–I think I split my jeani.

Very exciting was learning how to perfect making Nori Rolls!!

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Read to cut

Read to cut

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy  (So much fun working with her! She brings much nutritional knowledge to the table.)

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday's group)!

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday’s group)!

After the storm (though it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

After the storm (though-thank goodness- it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

Living Your Yoga

August 17, 2016

Mostly I’d like you to enjoy these photos.  I believe these photos give you a good sense of the feel of Yoga on the Beach Retreat at our home and sanctuary, Little Renaissance on the Washington coast.

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The weekend yoga retreat at Little Renaissance is always held in August.  It is an annual event, one we have run every year since 1999! Generally, the weather is warm enough for us to enjoy at least one session of yoga on the beach.  While it was in the 90s in Seattle, it only hit a high of 70 at the coast.  In the morning, when we would generally go to the beach to do yoga, it was 49 degrees one morning and the second morning, we were immersed in the beach fog that covers this area much of the summer.  Beach fog and drizzles made for indoor yoga. Even so, a 70 degree high at midday on the beach is very nice and we got to enjoy a long walk on Saturday.

We enjoyed our walks on the beach and we had lovely retreat participants!  Good company, our organic garden produce used as ingredients for the meals, music, lots of yoga and lots of exploring of yoga toys/props including inverting on a sling, long walks on the beach, fair weather, hot tub, lots of visiting deer, bucks, and fawns, AND whale sightings on Sunday made for a very special weekend!

Mark your calendars for next year’s annual Yoga on the Beach (never too early to sign up!):

The Next Yoga on the Beach Retreat: August 11-13, 2017

Walking on the beach

Walking on the beach

Rick soaking up the rays

Rick soaking up the rays

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Reaching for the sky

Reaching for the sky

Hanging out!

Isaac:  Hanging out on the outdoor sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

Music

Music

Triangles on the beach (was too cool this year to do a yoga session on the beach in the morning)

Triangles on the beach

Pure Energy!

Pure Energy!

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the legs

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the feet!

Relaxxxx

Relaxxxx

A Soaring Heart

May 18, 2016

Permit me to be mysterious….on Sunday I held a one-day yoga retreat on a magical rain-forested island in the Pacific Northwest.  The day was filled with yoga, the beautiful company of lively  yogis/friends, a gorgeous environment, a healthy delicious lunch made of fresh local ingredients, fresh moist oxygen-filled air, and a hike along a dense forest decorated with moss and ferns.  The air was rich.  We did yoga, nourished ourselves with a hearty Salade Nicoise (made with lots of love), went on a hike, and did a meditation.  Below you will find two poems we shared during the day and some photos from our retreat.

Stone Path

Stone Path

During the morning yoga session, I read the poem below by Chief Dan George.  The poem speaks of a deep love of earth and life.  The poem suited the retreat day and the environment perfectly.  It is delicate, grand, and sensitive in nature:

My Heart Soars

By Chief Dan George

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars

Maple Tree: Heart Chakra of the Property

Maple Tree: The Heart Chakra (center tree) of the my friends’ private property

Maple Tree II

Maple Tree II (The Heart Chakra Tree)

And while on our hike with the group, I asked Rick to read the poem, Lost, to the group.  No one could have read my fellow-Hoosier-Washington-transplant David Wagoner’s poem better than Rick Clark!  He sustained a captive audience as he read the poem with gusto, humor, curiosity, and a touch of drama.

Blurred, Action-Packed Hiking photo in the thick of the rain forest

Action-Packed (and blurred!) Hiking in the thick of the rain forest (some retreat participants stayed behind and enjoyed reading, resting, napping, walking solo).

Below is the poem “Lost,” by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Wooden Lantern

Wooden Lantern (Our Meditation Hall)

Yes, a Pacific Northwest Gem

Yes, a Pacific Northwest Gem (meditation hall)

Sacred Yoga Space

Our Sacred Yoga Space

Thank you to Tricia Jewell for taking this photo of me

A big thank you to Tricia Jewell for taking this photo of me.

Oxygen-filled environment, thick with trees and ferns, but you will never be LOST!

Oxygen-filled environment, thick with trees and ferns, but you will never be LOST!

Salad Nicoise (view link for recipe)  Note: Recipe on link is not necessarily the exact version of what we had, but it is the foundation for your salad nicoise!

A somewhat blurred photo of our salade nicoise..see link for recipe below

A somewhat blurred photo of our salade nicoise.  Other plates held chunks of tuna, lettuce, various dressings, and olives to complete the salad.  Fresh bread and plenty of delicious fruit complimented the meal.

If you were not present at this retreat and find it of interest, please let me (Fran) know if you’d like to join me in a future day retreat at this unique gorgeous private setting by commenting below.  I will then be in touch with you.

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The Pulse of the Matter

May 5, 2016

I came across this inspirational quote:

“At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything else.” —George Leonard

Not sure if Mr. Leonard was intentionally describing yoga when he wrote the above quote, but his words are yoga teachings.  One of the most incredible benefits of the yoga practice is just how connected we become to ourselves, to others, to nature, and to life!

After a yoga session, I feel my feet are more deeply a part of the earth.  And it’s not just me.  Many people leave their yoga sessions feeling more deeply connected to life. During shavasana, we come to stillness and in that stillness, we rediscover the flow of breath, the inhalations and exhalations.  We unearth clarity, we reestablish balance  and embrace wholeness.  Later, we leave our yoga sessions fully connected to a particular season, the earth, trees, grass, all creatures domestic and wild.  The yoga practice reminds us that we are connected to humanity, to possibilities, to wind and breezes, sky and rain and sunshine.

Yoga is a meditative practice, essential to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Yoga helps us unearth the “silent pulse of perfect rhythm” so we can feel more fully connected to life.

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Enjoy the photos below taken last weekend at a privately booked retreat at Little Renaissance.  The retreat participants, a very enlightened and joyful group who enjoy yoga, the beach, good food, and lively conversations, are co-workers from Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based foundation committed to working with child welfare (keeping children safe and loved) and strengthening the resilience of families.  For more information, read about Casey Family Programs.

Dreamy beach days

Dreamy beach days, Rick photographing shorebirds.

Boot found this way, makes for interesting art. Is someone still looking for a boot?

Boot found this way… makes for interesting art. Is someone missing a boot?

Yoga Group on Log ("How many group photos have you taken on this log?")

Yoga Group on Log (“How many group photos have you taken on this log?”)

Shelter from the wind found!

Found: Shelter from the wind!

Pink!

Pink!

Stewards of the Earth

April 27, 2016

We had our 15th annual Earth Day Retreat last weekend!  We have been running Earth Day Retreats every year since April 2000.  Since April 2000, there was one year in which I took a hiatus from holding yoga retreats at our coastal home and sanctuary Little Renaissance and that was when my mother was very ill and at the end of her life.  Other than that time, we have held steady since the first retreat we held in the autumn of 1999.

Brent Matsuda has come to Little Renaissance year after year, all the way from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to serve as our resident biologist for the Earth Day Retreats.  He is a great asset to our annual Earth Day Retreat.  We met Brent in the early ’90s while trekking in Nepal and have been friends with him since that time.

Below you will see photos from our lovely lively weekend, as well as poems the retreat participants wrote, inspired by Haiku writer, Rick Clark!

Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle! Part I

Tulips: Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part I

Buying flowers for the retreat in Pike Place Market, Part II

Peonies: Buying flowers in Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part II

I'd say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!

I’d say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!  You can almost smell them in the photo!

Silent night
Owls calling –
Who cooks for you?

-Brent Matsuda

Of course, the inevitable rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

Of course, the inevitable warm (sometimes cold) spring rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

dedicated to Rick Clark:

The old alder trees
Grounded firmly in the earth
Give yogis Balance

-Brenda Seith

Firmly rooted on the deck

Firmly rooted on the deck (our traditional goodbye pose)

The following was written by Katy Hanson, inspired by a Neil Young Concert she attended:

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Written by Kay Hartzog:

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Breakfast at Little Renaissance

Breakfast at Little Renaissance (scones still in the oven!)

By Butch Hartzog:

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All the garden sculptures got a flower hat!

To further celebrate Earth Day, all the garden sculptures got a rhododendron flower hat!

Four haiku by Lena Hanson:

Green retreat

Fosters

Warm souls

 

Blooming yogis

Stretch away

Souls deepen

 

Sweet stillness

lifts

wisps of clouds

away

Green leaves

alight in fire

the dragon’s mouth

yawns

Mr. Frog happy to wear his flower hat

Mr. Frog reverently wears his flower hat

Otter wearing her flower hat

Otter happy to wear her flower hat

Chris Hanson read the inspirational essay, We Were Made For These Times, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  Estes is the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, which is really about the healing power of stories. The essay  starts out with, “Do not lose heart.  We were made for these times.”  It is a letter written to a young activist during troubled times.  It is so appropriate for all of us during the times of Climate Change.  What can I do?  The question and the answers are so bewildering, but Estes gives us a great foundation in which we gain courage to move forward and do our part in becoming stewards of the earth!  You can read the complete essay on this link.

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat at all.

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat nor the insect on his chest.

And lastly, Ann Fraser read We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners by Hafiz (born in Shiraz, Persia in 1320 AD).  I have included the poem below. Ann recently completed a yoga course, Yoga Behind Bars, a program which brings yoga to prisons across the country.

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world

to hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
Light!

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit and have dinner with our friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)

NEXT EARTH DAY RETREAT: APRIL 21-23, 2017 (NEVER TOO EARLY TO SIGN UP!..JUST COMMENT BELOW AND I WILL BE IN TOUCH WITH YOU)

Opening to Inner Wisdom

February 4, 2016

Arlene hosted a day-long yoga retreat in Woodinville on Sunday.  I enjoyed leading our day retreat, Opening to Inner Wisdom, held on the last day of January.  The New Year is a perfect time to fine-tune the way we approach and live our lives.  All activities, meditations, and discussions helped us open to inner awareness and provide access to our innate wisdom.

House sits on the edge of a lake and minutes from a state park ideal for a level meditative hike

Our day retreat was held in a house situated on the edge of a quiet lake and minutes from a state park, ideal for a meditative hike.

We enjoyed a morning of yoga, practicing (almost all of the) 60 fundamental postures, as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar.  After such a long yoga practice, we ravenous yogis enjoyed a hearty lunch prepared by Arlene. I wish I had gotten the recipe for her delicious lentil soup, but, instead, I have included recipes from two of the other dishes Arlene served:

Arlene’s Kick-Ass Salad (appropriately named!)

Ten ingredients leading you to the healthiest version of yourself!  Chop up the following and serve with Poppy Seed Dressing or dressing of your choice:

  • Red Cabbage
  • Green Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Broccoli or Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Apple
  • Cranberries (not chopped up)
  • Blueberries (whole, fresh)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (whole)
  • Sunflower Seeds (whole)

Quinoa and Kale Patties

Mix the following ingredients together and saute in oiled pan:

  • grated ginger
  • 1 cup of quinoa, cooked in 2 cups of water and given time to cool (can be made one day ahead)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 spring onions, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup steamed kale, chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Serve with the following optional toppings:

  • lemon wedges
  • salsa verde
  • garlic oil
  • avocado

After lunch we drove a short distance to a nearby state park in Woodinville. There we did a silent meditative walk for an hour.  A half hour into the hike, we broke our silence to hear Carol read Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese and to take a few group photos!

I really didn't mean to eclipse some precious faces!

Sorry!! I didn’t mean to eclipse some precious faces!

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

Silent Meditation/State Park hike in Woodinville

Silent Meditation/State Park hike in Woodinville

A contemplative mantra: SA TA NA MA

During our yoga session we practiced internally/silently chanting the mantra SA TA NA MA.  The mantra translates to Birth-Life-Death-Rebirth.  When we took our silent walking meditation in the forest, we noted how the cycle of SA TA NA MA is simultaneously present in the forest at all times.  SA/Birth is seen in the saplings, the younger trees so full of promise.  TA/Life is abundant in the forest.  TA/Life is seen in the various shades of green, in the lichen and the moss, and in the ferns and currant bushes decorating the undergrowth of the forest.   NA/Death is seen in the trees that have fallen, old and decayed.  NA/Death makes for a soft trail cushioned with dead pine needles and withered or dry leaves.  And before anyone has time to feel despair at the presence of death in the forest, we see MA/Rebirth in the form of a nurse-log, covered by moss, nourishing and supporting perfectly aligned robust trees.

photo of nurse log (from on-line, not my photo)

photo of nurse log (from on-line, not my photo)

The forest, we discover, holds the wisdom of the earth and shows us how to understand the mantra SA TA NA MA!

Sweet kitty

So Much Gratitude

January 3, 2016

I meant to send this blog post out on the last day of 2015. However, I had the stomach flu! This seems to happen when I am in Mexico or always around the holidays. (And, yes, I had my flu shot!)

So here it is, already the New Year 2016 and I am sending out a collage/retrospective from last year 2015. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for all the people in my life. The photos do not include everyone dear to my heart and I wish I could include more more photos! However, the photos capture some peak moments from last year, mostly yoga events I organized or took part in.

Love and Thanks for helping make 2015 unforgettable! My heart is filled with gratitude for 2015. Thank you for being a part of it!

Happy New Year! May 2016 be a year filled with love, good health, dreams fulfilled, creativity, and happiness!

Turn up your speakers and take in the fun, excitement, and fullness of living life (darn it if this collage cut off some lovely faces…sorry!):

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Come Hell or High Water

December 17, 2015

Last Wednesday, I led a Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat in Issaquah.  The day retreat included Yin Yoga, a delicious lunch made by Cathy Pierce, a discussion related to wellness, a walk, and a long late afternoon session of restorative yoga.  Throughout the day, everyone had a half hour massage with Julie Bacon.  This was my third annual Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat and it was another great experience (see next year’s date at the end of this blog post).

It rained practically non stop for days leading to the retreat.  Crystal Creek flooded over so all the participants had to drive through fairly high water to get to the retreat site, which sits at the top of a mountain.  So now you understand the title of this blog entry!  No one turned back.  Come hell or high water, they showed up on time for the day retreat.  It was most admirable!  Most people had large vehicles to get across the deep water that flooded over and covered the street, but some people had economy-sized cars and they made it across, too.  Talk about determination!

Below are some photos from the day, along with some writing about the shared discussions on the topic of wellness.

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!  It had been a long time since Crystal Creek had seen flooding like this!

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, so we think they did not suffer too greatly from this flooding.

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, but I fear they suffered flood damage.

Dayna with Willie in front of the flooded area.

Dayna with Cathy’s dog, Willie, in front of the flooded area.

Even flooded fields can be beautiful

Flooded field and forest

My walking buddies.  We were followed by a scary dog who was off leash.  He looked like a big black German Shepherd.  At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Mike to come get us!  By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was no where in sight.

My walking buddies. We were followed by a dog who was off-leash. He was a large black wolf-like German Shepherd. At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Cathy who sent Mike to come get us! By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was nowhere in sight.  I don’t think Willie (on leash above) ever noticed the scary looking dog.

The Holiday Wellness Retreat Participants were asked to do or answer one of the following:

  • How do you nurture yourself and your community?
  • Can you share a special photo that perhaps comes with a story to share?
  • Please share a poem or something you are reading that is meaningful to you.

I read the following poem:

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Lisa spoke of her love of reading!  Reading is something she feels is self-indulgent and it is her key to wellness because it feeds her mind and spirit.  She then read a lovely excerpt from The Hobbit by Tolkien.

Kim said she had a hard time with self nurturing.  Self-nurturing, at times, seems to be a guilty pleasure, though she felt good about coming to this day retreat.  Coming to a retreat is about reserving the time to do it.  She spends a lot of time taking care of her parents so taking out time to retreat is challenging.  “Self nurturing is allowing myself this moment.”

She brought along a beautiful photo from the retreat she and her husband experienced in India with me earlier this year.  The photo (see below) was of all of us doing rooftop morning yoga in Rajasthan. As we passed the photo around the group,  she described the parrots flying around, the morning call to prayer from a nearby mosque, the sun rising,  and the Indian families waking up, starting their day by cooking with delicious spices.  We could smell the spices from Rooftop Yoga.

Kim's photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Kim’s photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Lastly, Kim read an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For my Journey Now. She read the short chapter titled, A Day Away:

We often think that our affairs, great or small, must be tended continuously and in detail, or our world will disintegrate, and we will lose our places in the universe. That is not true, or if it is true, then our situations were so temporary that they would have collapsed anyway.

Once a year or so I give myself a day away. On the eve of my day of absence, I begin to unwrap the bonds which hold me in harness. I inform housemates, my family and close friends that I will not be reachable for twenty-four hours; then I disengage the telephone. I turn the radio dial to an all-music station, preferably one which plays the soothing golden
oldies. I sit for at least an hour in a very hot tub; then I lay out my clothes in preparation for my morning escape, and knowing that nothing will disturb me, I sleep the sleep of the just.

On the morning I wake naturally, for I will have set no clock, nor informed my body timepiece when it should alarm. I dress in comfortable shoes and casual clothes and leave my house going no place. If I am living in a city, I wander streets, window-shop, or gaze at buildings. I enter and leave public parks, libraries, the lobbies of skyscrapers, and movie houses.
I stay in no place for very long.

On the getaway day I try for amnesia. I do not want to know my name, where I live, or how many dire responsibilities rest on my shoulders. I detest encountering even the closest friend, for then I am reminded of who I am, and the circumstances of my life, which I want to forget for a while.

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spaces of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.

When I return home, I am always surprised to find some questions I sought to evade had been answered and some entanglements I had hoped to flee had become unraveled in my absence.

A day away acts as a spring tonic. It can dispel rancor, transform indecision, and renew the spirit.

Another retreat participant, Dayna, who recently experienced some health challenges, said, “I am taking in nurturing after having worn down my system.  I am now all about self-care. I am putting myself first for the first time in my life.  I’ve always wanted to refine my health and now I am doing just that. One of the things I am doing is cutting out sugar.”  Dayna is also making other great changes in her life and is an amazing example to those of us in her company!  She made reference to A COURSE IN MIRACLES, a unique, universal, self-study spiritual thought system that teaches the way to Love and Inner Peace is through Forgiveness. This course has shaped Dayna into who she is today and is contributing greatly to her self-nurturing strategies.

Brenda read excerpts from the book, The Gift, written by the Sufi poet and master, Hafiz.  It is amazing to think that Hafiz write in the 13th century because his words and ideas are so contemporary.  Below are some quotes from The Gift by Hafiz:

“The
Earth would die
If the sun stopped kissing her.”
“The heart is a
The thousand-stringed instrument
That can only be tuned with
Love.”
“Let’s get loose
With
Compassion,
Let’s drown in the delicious
Ambiance of
Love.”
“Not loving is a letting go.
Listen,
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That.”
“What is the root of all these words?
One thing: Love.
But a love so deep and sweet it needed to express itself with scents, sounds, colors that never before existed.”
Hāfez, The Gift
Brenda also spoke of the Five Spiritual Practices, as taught at her spiritual center, The Center for Spiritual Living.  The Five Spiritual Practices nurture her and her community.  They are the following:

Meditation
Guidance from Within

Prayer
Communion with the Divine

Study
Awakening to Meaning

Seva (Selfless Service)
Oneness in Action

Circulation
Participating in the Natural Spiritual Order of Never Ending Flow, Ability to Give and Take

You can read about the Five Spiritual Practices in detail here.  Brenda can also be found giving out biscuits to her neighborhood dogs.  Passing out dog biscuits is part of her nurturing program!
Cathy nurtures herself and others by engaging in “Give and Take Conversations”.  She firmly believes that kindness begets kindness.  She believes we are all interconnected.  And her new way of nurturing herself is by learning to use the concept of  integrating the affirmative “yes” and moving away from “no”.  For Cathy, “yes” gives way to possibility and “no” translates to limitations.  “Don’t tell me No!”  Don’t tell me you can’t do it.  Don’t tell me how to think.  Don’t tell me no.”
Now by contrast, Leslie S. thought that in order to self-nurture, the answer is NO!  However, Leslie’s idea of saying No comes from always saying yes and rarely saying NO.  As a result, she ends up doing too much for others and not enough for herself.  She also talked about her geriatric 15 year-old deaf dog named Nietzsche, who has become quite needy.  She is both amazed (because she loves him) and horrified (because he is so incredibly elderly) that he is still alive.  He and his needs interfere with her sleep. She is consistently awakened by him at 4 or 4:30am.  She is sleep deprived and said that her self-nurturing will begin one day when he is no longer around, at which point she will be able to sleep.
Karen self nurtures and nurtures her community by organizing an ever-growing annual Winter Solstice Candle Lighting community-wide event on Vashon Island.  She spoke of creating golden light on the shortest day of the year, golden light as far as the eye can see!  She makes magic happen for her community on December 21st.  The following excerpt comes from Karen’s weekly newsletter:
The sun will stand still for a brief moment, holding its breath over the Tropic of Capricorn while the waxing moon hovers in Taurus. In our Puget Sound region, the day will be 8 hours, 41 minutes and 47 seconds long, with the sun setting at 4:20 in the afternoon.
You get almost one hour more in Chicago with 9 hours, 7 minutes and 44 seconds of day length and in Miami you get another hour with 10 hours, 31 minutes and 46 seconds of day length. Wait, there’s more! If you happen to be in Reykjavik, Iceland during the winter solstice, you may be inclined to not bother getting out of bed with only 4 hours, 7 minutes and 9 seconds of daylight, much of that twilight.
With a dry day and many helping hands, trucks, sand, bags and candles we will light magic along Paradise Valley.
This is the moment we gather ourselves and prepare for the return of the sun to our northern hemisphere. It may officially be the beginning of winter, yet many of us will do a happy dance to welcome back the ascent of the sun as it adds daylight 5 and 6 seconds a day.
Our work begins early, the magic happens as we work and there are many opportunities for you to participate. If you wake up Monday, the 21st to a dry day, gather your many layers and come down to the farm about 11:00 AM. We will bag sand and candles, load trailers and truck beds, sip coffee and soup. We will go as far as we can with as many bags and candles as we have. One year we made it over 3 miles from the corner at 204/ Highway at CenturyTel to way, way down Wax Orchard Road.
I have been lighting Paradise Valley since 2000, when I lit a path from my house to my neighbors across the street, down to his pond in his backyard. James thought we were a little crazy, but he sure did love the candle light around his pond.
Luminaria: Beautiful painting by Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice Magical Candle Lighting, organized annually by Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

Luminaria: painting by Vashon artist Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice magical candle lighting, organized annually by organic farmer Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

marykay shared a photo of her son, David, whom she lost earlier this year.  David died on his own terms. I was lucky enough to get to know David and Rick was drawn to David’s kindness and got together with him from time to time.  They were scrabble-mates.  Please take a moment to read Windswept Wonder, my blog post from two years ago when marykay and her beautiful family (her adult children) did a yoga retreat at Little Renaissance, Ocean Shores.  David is the handsome fellow wearing eyeglasses.  marykay has taught me and reminded me that we can all nurture our community by reaching out to others who appear to be suffering from depression.  REACH OUT.  It’s a powerful message!  And don’t forget to say, “Have a nice day.”  Those were David’s words.  These simple words could put a smile on anyone’s face.
And a few more photos from the weekend:
Winter Garden

Winter Garden in Issaquah

Yoga

Yoga at Crystal Creek

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

 Next year’s Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 2016.   Comment below to save your spot with Fran.


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