16 Feb

Trying Something New: Kundalini Yoga and The Four-Fold Way

The Four-Fold Way

The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary, by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D.

Kundalini for Women: Friday evenings at 5:30pm, February 17, 2017 – March 24, 2017

Classes run in 6-week series, $60 for the complete series or $15 drop-in. Classes are held on the 2nd floor at Michigan Holistic Health, 500 West Crosstown Pkwy, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

Like many of you, I typically do some written reflection and intention setting around the new year. I scaled back on my typical practice this past December in favor of more rest and meditation, but one piece that made it through the cuts was selecting a word of the year. In 2017, mine is authenticity.

Universal Laws for Communication

My own therapist introduced me to the work of Angeles Arrien a few months back, and in particular, the universal laws for communication that are explored in her book The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary.  This text encompasses a larger vision than communication alone, exploring four archetypes that shamanic traditions have drawn on ‘in order to live in harmony and balance with our environment and with our own inner nature’ (p. 7). Arrien reminds us that the indigenous peoples have long worked with the natural rhythms of the earth to move through life processes and transitions, and that these tools remain available (and necessary) to us in our own industrialized society. For each archetype, she identifies key attributes and practices that we can use to more fully embody each role, finding balance in both our inner and outer lives.

The Warrior: Showing up and choosing to be present

The Healer: Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

The Visionary: Tell the truth without blame or judgment

The Teacher: Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

As I worked with this little card of reminders, what arose for me was this theme of authenticity and being true to my own nature – which is actually something that connects really nicely with the practice of Kundalini Yoga.  Kundalini is the yoga of awareness – it is a practice that is designed to give you an experience of your soul. Yoga literally means union, connecting our finite selves with the infinite creative consciousness. I see that same thread in Arrien’s writing, connecting with these universal archetypes that reside within us all.

So it’s a little unorthodox to structure a Kundalini Yoga class series around an outside text like this, but I’m going with it. As those of you who practice Kundalini know, classes are always structured around a theme, which connects to the kriya and meditation. Kriya means action – it’s the postures, breath, and sound that are organized together to manifest a particular state. Typically, I’ll choose a larger theme from within the yogic lifestyle to select kriyas and meditations (the chakra system or the 10 bodies, for example) – but in this series for women, let’s try something new! Are you with me?

Kundalini for Women starts up again on February 17. Drop-ins are always welcome – though series passes give you the full 6-week experience, and save you a little cash. I hope you can join us!

20 May

Creating a Clearing

Spring has certainly sprung here in Northern California: my morning walk is fragrant with jasmine and peonies, the windows are open, and we’ve even had a few days warm enough to lament the absence of an air conditioner (already!). I live in a pretty small space, so my “summer clothes” get stashed away in the winter and vice versa, and I’ve been overdue for making the switch. It’s time to put the wool tights away.

Many of us have grown up with some kind of spring cleaning ritual in our homes, where we spend a weekend getting rid of the junk that has accumulated in the house or the garage. My space issue highlights another element of that process – I pack away the heavy sweaters and flannel pjs (along with the dreary days made for snuggling and hot soup), and pull out shorts and summer dresses (plus the excitement of vacation and ice cream cones at the beach). Inevitably during this process, there are clothes from both seasons that I realize I no longer wear, and they are packed up to grace someone else’s closet for a while and lighten the load in my own home.


Sometimes, creating a clearing looks like this.

I’m talking about clearing out physical stuff here, but there’s a deeper level to this spring cleaning. Before I get too far into that, though, I’d like to invite you to try a short visualization exercise…

Take a moment to imagine your kitchen in its messiest state (if you’re like me, you don’t need a lot of imagination for this part). Dishes are piled up at the sink, waiting to be washed… a stack of mail and flyers sits on the table, needing to be sorted… an empty cereal box and wine bottle sit on the counter, because you keep forgetting to empty the recycling bin… Ugh, I know. Still with me? Before we move on, I want you to notice what you’re feeling in your body. Pay attention to things like breath, muscle tension, heart rate, body temperature… and then move out to more general “feeling states”, like heavy or light, energized or sluggish, closed or open. Try to bring awareness to these feelings without judgment, just noticing.

Messy Kitchen


Okay, now, take a deep breath, erase that image, shake that Etch-a-Sketch… and call to mind a new picture of your kitchen. This time, it’s on one of its best days: the counters are sparkling, the dishes are put away, even the floor is freshly mopped (and already dry!). Take some time here, to really bring the picture into sharp focus – maybe there’s sunlight streaming through the windows, or a lemon scent in the air. Let yourself really take this in. Come back to your felt sense as you did before, and notice the cues that your body is giving you, both specific physical sensations and your general state of being. What does this kitchen scene feel like?

Galley Kitchen, by Nancy Hugo, CKD

Not my kitchen, obvs. (Galley Kitchen, by Nancy Hugo, CKD)

At this point, some (or all) of you may be wondering, what is this nonsense about a messy kitchen doing on a blog about wellness? 

The answer is: it’s not about a messy kitchen.

Go back to those feeling states from the visualizations. Let’s say there’s a creative project you’ve been wanting to get started on, or a big talk you’ve been wanting to have with someone you love. Which kitchen makes you feel ready to take action? Which kitchen holds you back, and which one pushes you forward?

The “kitchen” is a stand-in. Not exactly a metaphor, because for some people, doing the dishes and wiping the counters will be the action that shifts energy. For others, it may be selling a car, canceling a meeting, saying no to a request, cleaning out the inbox. These are all examples of clearings.

Years ago, I took a class that was mainly about dreaming big and manifesting wishes (at $99, it’s still a steal for this life-changer); one of the practices that I learned there that I’ve returned to time and again is creating a clearing. Here’s how Andrea and Jen described this notion:

“A clearing is a wide open empty space in your life that is ready for something new or amazing to emerge.”

– Andrea Scher & Jen Lemen, Mondo Beyondo

The basic idea is this: when we let go of what no longer serves us, we create a space for something different to move in.  Sometimes “what no longer serves us” is as simple as the mess in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s a pile of stuff in the garage. Sometimes it’s a job that fails to motivate or inspire . Sometimes it’s a relationship that’s run its course. And sometimes… the space that we create in one part of our lives allows another part to change. A simple step like washing the dishes can be surprisingly powerful.

Stashing the winter clothes away made a literal space for my spring clothes – but it also helped me to welcome in a different season, with different activities, emotions, and energies. This year, that ritual also carried my intention for a big next step – as I sorted through clothes and other things to donate, I recognized that every item given away was one less item I would need to carry on a cross-country move later this year. The decision to make that move is something I’ve been working through for many months. Practicing my spring cleaning with an attitude of creating a clearing was part of putting two feet in, declaring that I was ready to move forward, ready to let go so that something new could find its way in.

Have you been feeling stuck? Are you longing to make a shift, but not exactly sure how to start? Experiment with a clearing. What could you let go of, in order to make space for something new?

09 Mar

Morning Practice

Last week, I wrote about my words for the year: practice and discipline. Today, I’d like to share some of the practices that have felt really grounding for me these past couple of months. Perhaps some of these actions will resonate for you, and if so, I’d invite you to give them a try! In a broader sense, though, I’d love for this to inspire creativity in your own life – to play around with your daily routine, and experiment with activities that support your own spiritual center. Let us know in the comments how this is working for you!

Home Altar

Most days, I start my practice at 5 AM. You don’t need to start that early. The yogic tradition that guides a lot of my spiritual practice prescribes a morning sadhana, ideally performed during the Amrit Vela, or ambrosial hours, between 4 AM and 7 AM. I’m not strict about this timing, but I do find the quiet of the early morning is more supportive for my meditation, and sets the tone for the rest of my day.

Many yogis and yoginis practice for 2.5 hours each morning – that’s not realistic for my lifestyle right now. Still, I try to incorporate breathwork, physical activity, and meditation into a set that’s doable for every day. Here’s what my routine looks like:

  1. Light a candle. This is a new habit I’ve acquired through my work at Hospice. Before working with clients in grief, I didn’t understand the meaning behind lighting candles as ritual. In this setting, I see this act as a way of honoring the space, marking out time for a specific purpose, and inviting light into the world.
  2. Tune in. As with any Kundalini yoga practice, I start with the Adi Mantra, Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, chanted three times.
  3.  Complete a (very) short yoga set. I use breath of fire for each 1-minute exercise, with a 45-second rest in between: stretch pose, nose-to-knees (while lying on my back), ego eradicator.
  4. Recite the Seven Whispers. I’ll be honest – this is where I start to get a little shy about the hippie-woo-woo of my routine. That’s okay! Creativity, people! I picked up this little book by Christina Baldwin a few months ago, and was surprised at how much power it held for me. I decided to try it out in my daily practice, and right now, I feel like this is the most important part of my morning. The words capture what I want to focus on and reinforce in my life, and reciting them in the affirmative each morning is a continual reminder of what’s meaningful to me. I sit in a cross-legged position, close my eyes, place my hands over my heart, and speak softly: I am maintaining peace of mind. I am moving at the pace of guidance. I am practicing certainty of purpose. I am surrendering to surprise. I am asking for what I need, and offering what I can. I am loving the folks in front of me. I am returning to the world.
  5. Meditate. I tend to be the queen of monkey mind, even at 5 in the morning, so I gravitate toward meditations with mantra. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been chanting the triple mantra recording from this album, a practice that helps me to feel like I’m aligning with the flow of the universe. At the end, I whisper a “sat nam” to close this part of the practice.
  6. Consult the oracle. Had you told me at the start of the year that I would be using oracle cards on a daily basis, I think I would have laughed in your face. But! I’m working through an amazing course on self-care for healing professionals right now, and it is opening me up to new ideas. So… I’m having fun with this one. If there’s time, I shuffle the deck, ask my inner wisdom to guide me to what I need for the day, and pick a card. I’m finding this to be a fun way to connect with aspects of my consciousness that aren’t always right there at the surface.

After that, I’m up, dressed, and out the door to get some fresh air with my dog. In total, the routine above probably takes me about 20 minutes – totally doable on a daily basis. And that’s key! Start small and manageable, and see what works for your day. I’d love to hear what’s working for you.

10 Oct

Picker Uppers

A little over a week ago, something bad happened. And you know, I don’t really want to get into the details of it over here, but still, I felt like saying something.  Just to get it out, I guess.  It feels like kind of a big deal.  Not a someone’s-dying-of-cancer big deal or anything, it’s nothing like that.  It’s just… well, it was just something shitty.

So.  I did some things that I thought would make me feel better.  Like reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants in one sitting.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

And curling up to watch The Five-Year Engagement.

The Five-Year Engagement

 And taking a trip to Italy with some really awesome friends.





Man, did that movie  ever cheer me up!


In all seriousness, if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, I can highly recommend all of the above for turning things around.  Painting in that countryside did sort of take it up another notch, though, if I’m being honest.  More to come…


04 Jul


I’ve been meaning to do a little self-evaluation here halfway through the year, and since my word for the year is freedom – and you know, July 4th, that whole Independence Day thing… – today seemed like a good deadline to put on the calendar.  (Who wants to read about freedom on July 7th?  Right?)

Freedom is Riding a Bicycle

Photo Credit: etsy.com, 3279Press

As a refresher, here’s part of what I wanted when I set my intention for the new year:

Freedom to be whatever my soul desires.  Freedom to find new love and new friendships.  Freedom to travel.  Freedom from self-judgment and criticism.  Freedom from material trappings.  Freedom from “what will people think?”.

So let’s not get carried away with the 4th of July stuff – we’re not exactly talking about freedom from foreign rule or taxation without representation.  Although, I suppose you could say we are talking about the freedom to pursue happiness.


Photo Credit: etsy.com, theIrisandtheBee

Here’s the thing about the New Year’s ritual, and the intention within it.  See, I’d been putting off doing this reflection because I’ve been feeling a bit like a failure lately.  Not Failure with a capital F, but, well… I’m stalled in my Retreat business, I fear that I’m wasting a lot of the free time I’ve created for myself, I’m in a bit of a rut with my personal relationships, and my house looks like I moved in over the weekend (for reference, I’ve lived in this house for almost two years now – boxes in the living room are not acceptable).  And see?  That last sentence there – I was supposed to be free of those kinds of judgments!

So I’ve been kind of grouchy lately.  I wasn’t looking forward to putting all of that out there on the screen.

But then I look at that list and think about what my year has looked like so far.  My 25 hours a week of finance work have gotten so comfortable that sometimes I forget I had to create that.  I struggle with it, more than I should of course – I worry about what people think, especially when I describe my work to new acquaintances (I still haven’t figured out how to explain it concisely) or when I’m looking at the LinkedIn profiles of my peers.  But then I remember: I work 25 hours a week.  I’m doing what my soul desires.

Travel?  I spent 3 weeks in Spain this spring.  A year ago, planning a trip like that was unfathomable.  I was surprised by a lot on that trip – it wasn’t all food and art and culture and vacation – but in a way, it was the freedom to do it at all that mattered.

My house is a wreck, sure, but that’s because I’ve spent the past few weeks clearing out too much stuff (material trappings) and figuring out how to make what’s left into an open, organized space that welcomes relaxation and community.  It’s a work in progress, and I’m learning to be patient with myself along the way (letting go of self-judgment and criticism, hm?).  There’s the dog hair, too – but you know, that’s probably a better example than any of my letting go of the rules I’ve set for myself (and so worth it!).

That’s intention for you – and also the value of taking time to take stock.  Things are not as bad as they seem; progress has been made.

But there’s so much more that I want to do with this word of the year!  Is it greedy to want more freedom than I already have?  I want freedom from the fear that’s holding me back in my business.  Freedom from bad habits whose upsides are rapidly diminishing.  Freedom to communicate and connect the old-fashioned way.  Freedom to try (more) new things.  And all of the freedoms I was dreaming of at the start of the year, too.

So there’s my intention for the next 6 months.

I hope this wasn’t too heavy for a day that’s meant for hamburgers and fireworks.  I’m done for now.  I’ve gotta get going.  Angie and I are about to exercise our freedom to watch a movie about male strippers.  (Yay, America!)

Magic Mike

Photo Credit: mtv.com

04 Feb

Realizing Empathy

Found this today via Ordinary Courage.  I know 6 minutes of YouTube can require some patience these days, but I was so intrigued… maybe you will be, too.  I’m inspired by the link he’s drawing between creativity and human connection, and still kind of digesting the message.  Anyway, I’d love to hear your reaction…

Here’s the link to the Realizing Empathy website for more information.

25 Jan

Embroidered Note Card

Did you know that you can embroider paper?  Why yes, you can:

Orange card with yellow embroidery

It’s my grandma’s birthday this week, so I took 20 minutes out of my Friday afternoon to dress up her card.  (20 minutes, people!  Grandma is worth it.)

Orange card with text and embroidery

I feel like you can kind of tell that this is a first try, but I think Grandma will still appreciate it.  I’m not gonna lie – those french knots in the center were tricky (and that’s why I went for the more paper-friendly “specks” when I added the pink around the outside).  Jenny Hart does a nice tutorial using embroidery transfers, but don’t feel like you need something fancy to get started.  I made a light pencil trace of a nickel to get a good circle and just lined up the points of my lazy daisy with that!

17 Jan

The trouble with blog writing

I decided to take a break from the 40-day challenge this weekend.  I could have knocked out a post on Saturday night (and Sunday, too), but… why?

Well, because I set a goal, for one thing.  Because I made a commitment.  And I am nothing if not accountable, especially to my own high standards.  But Rachel’s words were still echoing for me – what she’d said about the things we do only because we think we should, and later, her question to me about writing every day (simply, “why?”).  I’d answered her with what I know to be true – a blog needs content, and I want to write content that resonates with people who share my values, people with whom I hope to do business someday.  (Geez, I hope that doesn’t sound too commercial.  The thing is, I find great value in writing for my own reflection and self-examination, but with little exception, I wouldn’t feel the need to post my writings online without a broader purpose.  Let’s be honest: the blog is ultimately here to support my work.)

And that is exactly where I’m feeling the most stuck with my business right now.  I want to connect with people – that’s what Retreat Austin is all about.  I believe that real, personal communication is essential to making those connections.  And for me, social networking – Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. – seems more like a threat to building real connections than a tool that fosters them.

You can see my dilemma, right?  Here I am, trying to build a business that brings people together, to be present with each other face to face – and the best way to inform people that this awesome business exists is by way of a website.  Grr.

So what did I do in the face of this struggle?  I decided to face it head-on.  Stop avoiding the enemy.  In fact, spend some quality time with it.  Write to it every day.  Talk to it.

Only, I don’t really have that much to say on an every-single-day basis.  My interaction with this blog seems more like the small talk I make with the barista every morning than the kind of substantive conversation I have with a friend over dinner.  That’s my relationship with the blog (and by extension, you) right now – first date, when I’m shooting for old pal.

I suppose I hope that keeping it up like this – at least for a while – will make things more comfortable.  That the relationship will become more familiar over time.  But then, I’m trying to trust my gut, too, and recognize that every single day is probably not necessary.  It’s okay to take a break.  Sometimes that’s how you know you’re getting closer, right?  When the silence is comfortable.

How do you use social networking to build relationships?  Is the internet bringing you closer together, or does it have you feeling a bit disconnected?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

14 Jan

Tomorrow’s Retreatshop with Rachel W. Cole

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Rachel Cole’s first Well-Fed Woman Retreatshop, right here in Austin, and I just can’t wait.  Rachel coached me through my biggest changes this year: leaving an unfulfilling job, taking time to rest and listen, developing my vision for Retreat Austin and my financial consulting work.  She held my hand, cheered me on, asked the tough questions, pushed me to consider options I hadn’t allowed myself to see.  Working with a life coach was an experiment for me – I hadn’t worked in that space before, and I didn’t know what I would be getting with Rachel.  I am so thankful for what I found.

I expect that tomorrow will be quite different from our coaching sessions, and I’m still contemplating my own intentions for the Retreatshop.  As part of the registration, Rachel asked, “What are you truly hungry for?”  My answer was “connection”, and that is true.  I wasn’t certain at first that the Retreatshop would be the right fit for me, given that Rachel and I had already spent so much time together, and in the end, it was the promise of communion with other like-minded women that convinced me to go ahead and sign up already.  Now, I can’t imagine not having this on my calendar tomorrow.  After all, how could I have considered skipping out on a retreat?

Still, I am wondering what the afternoon will bring.  Will there be connection?  Creativity?  Growth?  I’m trusting Rachel (and my gut) on this one.  I can’t wait to find out.