Monday, October 21, 2013

More Than the Mat

This Saturday and Sunday marked the start of something new and beautiful, something that I am so excited I got to participate in and enjoy --  1* Encuentro Yoga de Sevilla ("the first yoga meeting of/in Sevilla") AND, possibly even more "news worthy":

Me embracing my vulnerability, and allowing all of me to be released in an unashamed manner, not just the positive parts that I truly want to, and choose to share. <3

I have been practicing yoga for a while now, but am always pretty hot and cold with it. I do not have a regular practice, but am sure to do a couple stretches or moves each day. But after this weekend, I really realize how great taking classes is, and how much I want to be sure I start practicing more seriously and regularly. Yoga is more than just contorting your body into strange, seemingly impossible shapes, getting flexible, and doing handstands for all your pictures on Instagram (which I cannot do yet). It is a state of mind, a state of being, and a way of life. It requires you to overcome your ego, tap into your true, energy self, and relax and flow with your breath, and with life. 

I have known about the benefits of yoga for a long time, and felt them on numerous occassions. I think that in many ways, part of becoming a more awakened spiritual being results in you becoming something a yogi. So many of the principles overlap, and I really believe that the more you get to know your spiritual self, the more you want to explore, know, and test yourself. This is where yoga comes into play. It allows you to get to know your body on a whole new level, and you develop a new way of trusting and exploring yourself, inside and out, in a bit of a sensual way.

The more you practice, the more peace and acceptance you feel -- about yourself, your body, your life, external circumstances, and the world around you. It's a beautiful practice to incorporate into your daily life, both mentally, and physically. Which is why I am so happy I was able to attend this weekend's two-day FREE event! It helped solidify and reinforce many of the ways of thinking and being I have been practicing for quite a while now.

On Saturday, I went and took the Vinyasa Flow class at 17h, as well as the Hatha Yoga & Meditation class that followed it at 18h. Both classes incorporated elements of chakra work, meditation, inspirational words from the teacher, and holding poses for a long time. I was really surprised to wake up on Sunday morning so sore, since I felt like we spent so little time doing poses. It just goes to show how much is being done when you only do 5-15 poses in an hour to an hour and a half, but you hold them for 30 seconds or more. Overall, I left the event completely satisfied, happy from the heart-out, and really excited to return the following day for more soulful flows. (See end of post for links to information about specific styles of yoga)

On Sunday, I wanted to get to the event earlier, but I have taken to leaving my phone outside of my room while I sleep, so I didn't hear the alarm go off, and got up too late. Ok, I'll level, I heard the alarm going off, but didn't want to get up yet, so I let it go, and then by the time I finally got moving, it was too late to make the earlier classes. But hey, it all worked out. So, I ended up arriving for the Kundalini Yoga class at 13h. I have taken a Kundalini yoga class online before, practiced some of its postures and breathing techniques on my own, and done a bit of research on it, and I am really drawn to this type of yoga. It is a great way to practice breathing, and cleanse your entire body with new breaths. It was a bit disgusting to do the deep, quick nose breathing with a nose full of snot as a result of having had a cold last week, but whatcha gonna to do? A nice woman next to me gave me a tissue, so I was able to keep myself pretty clean. Which I am quite certain is TMI, but I have to say, after finishing the Kundalini class, I think I only blew my nose once or twice the rest of the evening, as opposed to every half hour. Kundalini is a great practice for healing, and I highly recommend it to anyone that is suffering any ailments, especially disconnection from your true self, your inner being. ;) I have never encountered, in person or via the internet, a person who practices and/or teaches Kundalini yoga that doesn't just radiate inner peace and a sense of joyful, calming love. They are special people, and when you meet one, I doubt you'll be able to ignore the feeling you get. (Unless you are spiritually blind and inept, but you'd have to be pretty stinkin' out of touch to not notice anything).

As well as the Kundalini class, I took the Yoga Integral class at 17h. I wasn't sure what to expect, but figured that doing some more "serious" postures would be a nice switch from the faiiirly, though not entirely, relaxing yoga classes I had been taking. And man, I was not ready for what the teacher had to offer us...

She started out by telling us that she runs her classes in an unconventional way. "Ok, great," I thought, "I'm a highly unconventional person, and I really dig being in situations that aren't conventional, being conducted by people who share this strange passion." She told us that she kind of just takes a theme from her life that week, and applies it to her classes. They are unstructured, and for the most part, unplanned. "Excellent. This will be a great, flowing experience," I thought. She let us know we'd be doing some hatha yoga and finish with some meditation ("Woo hoo!"), but that we would also be working with partners ("UMMM...wait, what!?"). This part scared me a little at first. 

I have known for a long time that I'm not the best at connection. If you know me, you may think that this is a really weird statement for me to make, since it seems like all I do is run around making connections. But when I say I'm not the best at connection, I mean I'm not great at connecting on a certain, real-human level. I am referring to the level that people hit with one another that allows their friendships to go from "good friendships," to "best friendships." Sure I've had best friends over the years, but I feel like I have spent a fair amount of my adult life wondering, "Who is my best friend?" And, "Do I have one?"
Now, these aren't such fun questions to be stumped by when you are addicted to love and connection. But while I may be addicted to these things, live for these things, and am highly aware of these things, I am so far from being able to really accomplish them. I am great in getting to a level with people that dips below the surface, goes a bit deep, and makes your interactions special and meaningful, but I am not good at being vulnerable and letting people see my weaknesses or my perceived downfalls. 

This TED Talk from Brene Brown about vulnerability is something that one of my closest friends shared with me a while back. But it wasn't until I watched it again on Saturday that the message really resonated with me. I have always known that I, as most humans, tend to wear a mask. I try not to embrace, feel, or let others see the emotions I perceive as negative, and am always trying to be happy, positive, and bright. I rarely let other people see me cry, and I get annoyed at people who exhibit the signs of weakness that I know myself to have. Why is this? Why do I hold other people to this standard simply because I suppress what they don't?

So it got me thinking, and I decided that okay, I am going to make this my new task. I am going to work on not suppressing my vulnerability, but embracing it, and letting other people see it. I am going to work on overcoming this fear of rejection that seems to have been planted in me ages ago. (I suppose that's really what it is when you take away the layers. That, or the fear of being let down. I think when I think about my past, it's really a combination of both. Something I will touch on in an upcoming post.) I am going to work on embracing myself even more than I feel I already do. I am going to stop choosing which parts of me to share, and which parts of me to only share with God. I am going to release me, all of me, all the time, into the universe, because I know that I am good enough, and I love how I shine!

That was my big "ah-ha" moment of the weekend. My major realization, declaration, and promise to myself and the world. The big thing I am working on and practicing -- embracing and exhibiting vulnerability, and loving unconditionally. Now with that being said, I will get back on track (hehe..this is called "ADD Adventures," what else could you expect?)...

So, we're in this class, and she tells us we're going to be doing some partner work throughout it. I am thinking, oh man, this is just great. As much as I've been wanting to try some acroyoga, I was not ready to have to try it without first knowing I would be (*cough* control freak *cough*). But, then I realized that this was actually the perfect opportunity for me to work on overcoming vulnerability, and just releasing myself completely to the powers that be [God]. So after thanking God, with a bit of a clenched jaw, for so quickly delivering me an opportunity to practice this new declaration (so much better that it happened the next day.. really didn't give me time to think about it, back out, or forget that I want to work on it), I took some deep breaths, and decided to just give it a shot. 

Each partner task we did was with a different person. We would meet, look each other in the eyes, say our names, and then wait for further instruction as to what our task was. Then, after the task was complete, she would ring the little gong, and we would quickly find a new partner. The interactive activities we did ranged from standing in an exterior and interior circle, holding hands, and walking around chanting "ohm," to forming these same circles, but instead of chanting, singing, and turning around to the people in the other circle, seeking eye contact with someone, and waving your hands like an idiot, to reading the energy field of your partner without touching them, to running away from your partner and trying not to let them catch you, to holding tree pose together, to using the other person's back as the surface for your back so you could stretch, to tickling each other, to holding the other person's legs or using the other person's body as leverage to do a backbend, to this, to that, and to my absolute favorite, maybe most surprisingly so, embracing your partner in a romantic slow dance. 

The class was really special, really remarkable, and really, really blessed. I felt some very vivid connections in that class, and to act like such a dork, be completely undone, and just shut down the ego in that intimate way with people you don't know, was so beautiful and rare in the world we tend to live in. I was so instantly grateful that I didn't go with my initial reaction of, "Get up, gather your things, don't panic, just leave, NOW!" To have made the conscious effort to allow my unconsciousness to flow into that space proved to be a real blessing, and ended up resulting in the highlight of my weekend. And it all just goes to show you how amazing life can be when you overcome the ego and embrace and release yourself fully.

And it was with this highly-alive and open energy that I went into the final event of the weekend, the concert. Which proved to be another very beautiful experience. Lots of singing, chanting, harmonizing, and listening took place, and lots of powerful energy released into the universe to make her a better place for all. The entire weekend was such a gifted experience, from the teachers who led the classes, to the yogis and interested who participated. I am so glad the event went so well, as it hopefully means there will be another one next year.

This weekend was an incredible weekend for me, and the vibes I picked up and put out have just been carrying me through all day today with a smile that comes from my heart. I'm not writing this to say that if you start doing yoga you will have some profoundly, life-changing experience that leads to a better you, but I'm also not saying it won't. What could it hurt to try? ;)

Yoga is a state of mind, and happens everywhere you are. It is the chance to accept that which you cannot change, but never give up trying to make it better. It is remembering that maybe not today, maybe not next year, but if you continue to practice and keep a smile on your face and love in your heart, someday things will just click, and you'll wonder how you got there. Yoga is so much more than what happens on the mat. And that is why we practice.

Sweet, sweet love to you all
And as always,
Blessings & Light 

**Infomation: YogaVinyasa Yoga - Hatha Yoga - Kundalini Yoga - Yoga Integral (Escuela de Yoga Witryh) - Meditating 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Los Pueblos Blancos: Cortelazor

This past Sunday I finally took advantage of one of the coolest groups in Sevilla: Senterismo Sevilla. A friend told me about this group many months ago, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I added them and decided it was time to take advantage of what they have to offer, and I am so pleased that I have!

Each Sunday there is a hike organized, and so long as there are enough drivers, people go. I planned to go on the hike a couple weeks ago, but ended up having a pretty nasty allergic reaction to something I ate the night before, and had to cancel. But, I am not bothered by that at all, because this Sunday I went on the senterismo (hike), and it was magical!

We met up here in Sevilla (a friend and I + three other people), and then drove for about an hour to a village named Cortelazor. And when I say village, I mean a real village. Like, teeny tiny, less than 350 people living in it village. There are actually only 325 residents in Cortelazor, to be exact.

Many European countries are loaded with villages, and Andalucia happens to be home to a very high number of beautiful little villages. There is a particularly well-known part of Andalucia that is called Los Pueblos Blancos, or The White [Hills] Towns. A name which I think requires no explanation, but an area that I highly suggest you visit if you ever find yourself in our lovely southern region. And just like the other white hills towns I have seen, Cortelazor was charming as could be.

In order to get to the starting point of the hike, we had to go on a little tour of the village. Which in reality means we probably saw about 50% of it just by walking on the two or three streets. ;) The town itself has wonderful vibes, but it's the views and landscapes you have in these villages that really make them something special.

The hike itself was rated as being a fairly easy hike, but I would recommend you don't go on it if you are opposed to some mild rock climbing, inclines, and incorporating your hands to nature in order to get around. It was only a 6km hike, and the time went so fast, that when we got to the end we were all a bit surprised. But the route is really amazing, and quite the adventure! You end up doing some light crawling and clawing around, but then you find yourself hiking along a stream in the middle of a forest. It is peaceful, beautiful, and a perfect opportunity to recenter surrounded by various lifeforms. And let's not forget about the waterfall and pools that you arrive to at the end of the route!

 The most amazing moss-covered rocks and trees line and cover the entire route. It feels like you are trekking through the world of fairies and tree people.

Overall, the trip was great. I really look forward to returning to Cortelazor and doing the hike again when the spring comes so I can jump into the pools and swim around in the waterfalls. I loved the village, and I always love the people in villages, so I know I will return again during my stay here in Sevilla. 

Thank you Senterismo Sevilla, Cortelazor, and God for a beautiful Sunday spent outside!

Travel Tip: If you go to Cortelazor and do not intend to do a hike (there are various routes you can do in the village since it is situated in the hills), I would recommend just going for an hour to walk around, stop and have a drink or lunch, and then continue on to your next destination. It is a place that's worth seeing, but since it is so small, not much time is needed there. Unless you find some special souls to pass the day with, then by all means scrap whatever you were thinking of doing next and enjoy the moment! :)

Blessings, Love & Light, and as always, sending sweetness to you all!

Why Waste a Day? Why Waste a Life?

I think one of the greatest parts of our journeys here on earth lies in figuring out our passions and finding ways to incorporate them into our daily lives, if not make our lives completely center around and serve these passions. It is not an easy task, as the societies many of us live in want to crush our creativity and make us all one in the same. However, it can be done. There are many people who have followed their hearts and are wildly successful.

I should clarify that when I refer to being successful, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with money. We have grown up thinking that how much money you make determines how successful you are, and that is such a crock of crap. Success could better be defined as living your life with purpose, passion, and drive; and being full of joy in nearly every moment you pass through. Money has so little to do with happiness, contrary to what many think. The richest are often the most miserable, and the poorest most joyful.

Here's an example: 

This summer I was living with a small portion of my wardrobe. I woke up, looked at what I had to put on, and generally put on something I'd worn twice already that week. But did I care? Did it bother me? Did I feel like less of a person or part of the world? NO, not at all! So far from it! And you know what else? No one else cared or commented either. Now, back in Sevilla with all the clothes I have this side of the seas, I find it makes the process of getting dressed more stressful and frustrating. Instead of just reaching in, grabbing, and going, I consider, look, and spend time having to try and care when I could spend it doing more valuable things (ie. reading, writing, exploring, praying, talking, sharing my moments). Bottom line: having more doesn't necessarily mean you have or feel more.

So why do so many people spend their days in jobs they hate? Living in a town they can't stand? Sharing their time with people with whom they feel no connection or interest? Or wasting their days in a situation that doesn't make their souls happy and hearts smile? I will tell you why... it's comfortable. But you know what? Comfort is overrated. Highly, highly overrated. And there is a quote that wraps it up perfectly, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." (Neale Donald Walsch) 

We are living in a day where the days seem to pass quicker than they ever have before. The pace of life only continues to move faster, and we're left on the 18th of the month thinking, "How did we get here already?" It's freaky, it's weird, and I do not really like it. Every morning I write in my journal to God. I tell Him things I'm thankful for, things on my mind, or a small review of what is going on in life at the time. And even though each morning I write the date, I never cease to be amazed at how quickly it seems I'm writing the next one.

One morning I realized that the only reason why it freaks me out that they pass so fast is because I am not fully satisfied with the way I lived the day before. If I was living each day full of passion and love, then I would never be panicked that I'm already putting down the next day's date. I would be excited, happy, proud, and ready for the day, knowing that the goodness I'd put into the previous one was going to carry on, into, and through the now.

This is all part of the practice of being happy in the moment, no matter what that moment might be. A practice that we must actively work with each and every moment we're alive. The hardest possible practice we could ever take up, but the most beneficial. Because if we can master the art of just being happy and loving no matter what, we have acquired the key to life, and success, the real kind. So let's all take a vow, to do a better job at being, a better job at loving, and giving our best to really living each day fully and happily!

If you knew tomorrow you would die, would you be okay with that? Would you be ready to go? Satisfied with the time you've spent and the things you've done? I know I'd be pleased, but not completely satisfied. And that is what I am vowing to work on each day -- I want to be fully alive, and utterly satisfied!

Wishing you the best and brightest on whatever endeavor you're currently conquering, and hoping that it might be life! :)

Blessings, Love & Light, sweet souls <3