shriyoga news

THIS MORNING – JANUARY 29th, 2021

…still under the spell of yesterday’s Full “Wolf” Moon, I went out for a walk in my frozen neighborhood with the intention of bringing my business to one of many favorite local coffee shops, the Urban Backyard at 180 Mulberry Street.  I ordered more than I needed attempting to embody all the people that used to be lined up down the block only a year ago.
All the great wisdom traditions teach that there is “no separation”.  Like most humans, I struggle with this notion.
It is also one of the primary reasons that I have remained in NYC during our on-going pandemic.  When I walk the almost empty streets here and see my neighbors also confronting this particular reality, the notion of separation is blurred.
One thing I have learned in my many blessed years of travel around this beautiful world is that there is no escaping myself.  Whether I was in Rishikesh, Paris or in Black Mountain, North Carolina, everything troubling me at those times, always came with me.
In fact, I often longed to be “home” in my 500 square foot apartment on Thompson Street.
Fortunately, I remembered this lesson at the start of the pandemic when there were many choices to flee the city or take up residence in a more appealing location.
My way is not “the way” and it is not a reflection of judgment of others who made different choices at this time in history.
As the great teacher Jon Kabat Zinn states “… this journey is a trajectory between birth and death, a human life lived.  No one escapes the adventure.  We only work with it differently.”
My work within this adventure is to not turn away from the collective despair and to remain vigilant in my practices so I remember that there is “no separation”.
We do affect each other.  We can make a difference in each other’s lives.  There is no escape from our interconnection.

FIERCE LOVE – OCTOBER 23rd, 2020

Almost exactly one year ago to the day,  is the last time we sent a newsletter to the greater community of people who have either joined yoga and meditation practices at Shriyoga in its many iterations or have subscribed based on connection to me through various retreats and offerings around the world.

Stating the obvious, October 2020 is mind-bogglingly different than October 2019.  Our relationships and communities have shifted from dependency on the physical to the virtual.  Some of us are kicking and screaming in protest to swinging of the pendulum… missing physical contact… while some of us are quietly relieved (maybe even delighted) that the world has finally opened to us in the privacy of our homes.

I read below what I shared in my “NOTE TO SELF -Autumn 2019” entry.

It portends everything I would personally need to navigate the Unknown of 2020.

“A mistake can unexpectedly reveal something so beautiful that it is best to let it be… exploring a mistake, rather than just outright “fixing it”, requires a shift in perception. What, at first, is perceived as a mistake might be the key…”

In 2015, I embarked on an experimental musical journey with my brother, Johnny Rossa and Meredith Meyer, the evocative singer-songwriter.  Over the course of the next 2 years our collaboration grew to include some of the best musicians and engineers from around the world.

Then, in late 2017, after a pre-release live performance of CHAMUNDA at Salon 94our vinyl test pressings came back with serious sound issues.  We ran around the city playing the test pressings on various turn tables of musicians, dj’s and engineers to absolutely determine if we needed to return to press the vinyl.  The answer was an unequivocal yes.

The mistake presented by inadequate sound quality of the vinyl test pressings gave me pause.  The conversations around how to move forward became complicated.  Months passed. In the pause, which felt like a paralysis, I remembered a teaching:

Chant to Ganesha first.

It is a ritual.

August 2018 – August 2020:  GANAPATAYE

And, NOW:  CHAMUNDA

It was not a mistake after all.

A lesson in listening.  A lesson in intimacy.

A lesson in the importance of ritual in a time when the pandemic has been one of increasing rituals.

A lesson ultimately in FIERCE LOVE. 

Happy Navaratri!

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX 2020

September 22nd… day and night nearly equal in a time where equality in all respects is mightily challenged.

It is quite possible I will never forget the nuances of this particular September 22nd, let alone the days leading up to it.  And now, the heart-wrenching departure of the magnificent Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from this Earth.

The very last days of August, I spent at the glorious point of Orient, NY after 217 straight days and nights in my beloved Manhattan.
 
When I drove over the Williamsburg Bridge late on the last Sunday of August 2020, I felt pangs of attachment and, of a subtle conditioned response of betrayal…. To leave a hurting city and community even for just a few days.
 
When I arrived in the dark, another kind of pause enveloped my awareness.  The soundscape of seagulls and crickets, whispering to me that Nature was enjoying the slower pace of humanity.  Every second I relished.  The pineapple tomato, rosemary and mint from my dear friends’ garden, 4pm naps, the little bit of fear of sleeping in a town with no locks on the doors, the salty air and the heart stopping, ice cold dip off the dock into the bay.
 
On the drive back to reunite with the island I call my lover, a Full Moon deluge of rain expressed my full heart.  The magic of Orient fortified my understanding that my role to play in this next chapter, is to be part of the resuscitation of NYC.  This part is not for everyone.  It is a part only for those that deeply feel that calling.  It is for those that breathe a sigh of relief when coming back to the city.
 
For others, it will be to love and give from afar.  To offer support in other ways.  All ways of support are needed.  There is no intrinsic hierarchy in this web of life.  All parts depend on the others… a prominent lesson of these times.
 
One of my favorite yoga teachers, Erich Schiffman, taught those of us who studied with him to “pause, breathe, feeeeelllll…. And then dare to do what the feeling is telling you to do.”  He always said the word “feel” with extra emphatic elongation of the vowel E.  It was an especially poignant teaching in the time immediately following 9/11.  (Those of us who are vintage enough to remember life before and after, understand that there will be an after to this traumatic chapter too.)
 
Erich’s teaching never faded from my practice and studies over the next 18 years and NOW, HERE, in 2020, I find myself remembering him daily.  The sunlit room of the Sacred Movement Studio on the border avenue of Rose between Venice and Santa Monica, California is where I spent most of 2002 studying with him and Max Strom.  These early teachers encouraged me with great spirit to teach…. in a year where I was hanging in limbo between one life and another.  The Life I was relentlessly pursuing until 9:59am ET on 9/11 and the Life that slowly emerged in all the aching hours until the Autumnal Equinox of 2004 when Shri Yoga opened its doors at 443 Greenwich Street, NYC.
 
Over time and continual studies with other living masters, I have adopted the word “sense” for the word “feel” in my sharing of Erich’s initial teaching.
 
“Pause, breath, sense…. And dare to do what the sensation is telling you to do.”

When we practice yoga, we are using the senses, all of them, to study and ponder our body-minds which are always giving us the necessary information in HOW to proceed.   Touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and listening… Deep listening with every cell, as if each cell had their own set of ears.
 
Can we slow down enough in our daily routines to be able to sense when to move towards the physical, when to retreat to the virtual, how to engage in the physical world and how to manage the virtual…. And what combination of the two will best suit your health and ability to participate in this incredibly challenging chapter in our world history.
 
Our ability to master the dance between both virtual and physical will be critical to our ability to remain centered in the ever fluctuating Unknown.  It is our adventure to navigate.
 
Invest in connecting to your highest and wisest self, and dare to make choices which you sense to be aligned with that highest, wisest self.  It is ok that new communities are emerging and maybe some of the people you love dearly are not the ones whom you will be connecting with in the physical realm for the next leg of the journey.  The beauty is that they can be with you in the virtual with the ability to give their undivided attention and whole heart energy.  It is a powerful way to connect.  Do not underestimate its resonance.
 
And, in terms of the physical, it might be that those who end up in your “pod” are not those whom you would have expected at the start of the crisis.  Embrace the time you have with these people as time will also change that dynamic.  They are with you now and now is what is important.  Time will eventually shift that dynamic so do not squander or make the mistake that there will be another time down the road to be with them.  Be Here Now as my dear teacher, Ram Dass wrote and taught daily for all of his life.  I think of him more than ever as he passed from this world on December 22, 2019. It is challenging to fully integrate the loss of his physical presence here on Earth, especially now in this global crisis.  He would be the first to tell me, us, that it isn’t about the teacher as much as it is about the teachings.
 
There is no escape.
 
Be Here Now.
 
Keep aligning with your heart’s wisest sensibility.
 
Bear Witness and when you do choose to take action, Do No Harm.
 
Easier said than done.
 
Everything I have written above has been written before.
 
Can we continue to have fresh response to this time?  Can we stop pushing towards the future, where we think it will be better even though there is no proof that it will because it is “Unknown”.  Can we make the best of our lives NOW?  Can we do it?  Can we make it the best year yet even though dystopia rules the day? 
 
I think we can.  I know we can.
 
Life is an adventure.

 

LOVE

The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.

–Tennessee Williams

Keeping my promise to stay connected. 

 

NOTE TO SELF – Autumn 2019

We caught a typo reviewing the last Shriyoga News entry from three years ago.

Lesson: it’s never too late to make a correction.  In fact, I am learning along the way that to “course-correct” can be both exhilarating and healing.

And sometimes, a mistake can unexpectedly reveal something so beautiful that it is best to let it be.

Exploring the mistake is one of the potent lessons I have been learning in co-creating music with life-long musicians and engineers.  Exploring a mistake, rather than just outright “fixing it”, requires a shift in perception. What, at first, is perceived as a mistake might be the key to the entire song.

One of the keys for this shift in perception is deep listening.

Listening is also a directive of my yoga teacher, Richard Freeman.  Listening with the entirety of your embodied self.

Therefore, last month as we were looking back at this Shriyoga News page (to see where we left off),  my eye caught the delivery of a text on my Iphone.  I glanced quickly as not wanting to be distracted.

However, the text waiting was from the very “first friend” I made in NYC back in October of 1989:  Abigail Gampel.

Abby has always been a magical being to me.  Someone actually born in Manhattan (to two amazing theatre actors) and who understands in her bones the reality of being a child of “Hell’s Kitchen”… walking home from school along West 42nd Street when sex shops pre-dated Disney. 

The moment I met Abby at a rehearsal at the Tiny Mythic Theatre Company on Wooster Street, I was mesmerized.  As the costume designer of the production, it was my job to find the perfect dress for her, the lead actress.  Abigail was everything I was not and wanted to be.  She, wildly expressive, I, a still domesticated North Shore Chicago girl.

Later, I performed with her in my first NYC show at the legendary Theatre Club Funambules on Ludlow Street on the LES.  (I linked a Village Voice article for those of you wishing to recall that time in NYC history.)

So:  the text.

No personal message from her.

A poem.

PAUSE.  BREATHE.

What message was this poem carrying for me at this particular moment.

SENSE/LISTEN.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt——marvelous error!——
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures
.
–Antonio Machado
Translated by Robert Bly

“…making white combs and sweet honey from my old failures.”

A poem referencing course-correction.

PAUSE.

The last time I wrote an entry here in Shriyoga News, I made a “promise to share some news sooner than one year from now.

I failed to keep the promise.

It is three years later.

That failure created space for more study, more music, more real time connection… more honey.

The newsletter due to be sent on Saturday, October 19th, is the first in over two years.

Abby’s text of poetry jolted my heart and got me writing.

It also sent me on a hunt for more of Mr. Machado’s haunting words of the deep heart. 

Below, might reveal what has (and hasn’t) been going on in the three years since the last Shriyoga News:

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking makes the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path that you
will never tread again.
Wanderer, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

–Antonio Machado from “Proverbios y cantares” in Campos de Castilla, 1912

 

FULL MOON HELLO…

The task of genius
is to keep the miracle alive,
to live always in the miracle,
to make the miracle more and more miraculous,
to swear allegiance to nothing,
but live only miraculously,
think only miraculously,
die miraculously.

–henry miller

It has been over a year since I wrote the last bit of “news”.  Reading back below at what I predicted for 2015, I was on target. It was a year of intense study and practice.

The practices and time spent with my primary teachers, Richard Freeman and Sally Kempton, were priceless.  I also was introduced to an incredible teacher in Tokyo, Shinnosuke Takaoka, who challenged me to find new strength and integration in my yoga practice.  Meeting Shin has made me a more honest practitioner.  He shined a light on my practice that revealed shadows and places I was hiding.

2015 quickly became a year of unraveling so many preconceived ideas.  It was a year of humble deconstruction.  It was a year unlike any that I have lived.  It was a year I found a newfound closeness to what many call The Inner Teacher.

The early months of deconstruction led to an impulse.  A musical impulse.  And, then, with humility, I asked two other musicians to humor this impulse in an experimental session. It was… miraculous.

We continued together through the summer and into the fall and what emerged from these miracle sessions was a music project.

The very first week of 2016, we officially recorded our basic tracks at the Canyon Hut in LA, up in the Laurel Canyon.

At this moment, the details of this project are not of importance.  What is of importance is that my yoga/meditation/philosophical studies and practices led to a deconstruction of what “I thought” to be “the way”.  The excavated space revealed a longing to merge my various modalities of study and practice.

My dedication to yoga, contemplative practices, meditation and philosophy bridged a reconnection to my childhood studies of music/classical piano.  In late 2007 I learned to play the electric bass and after years of playing with friends’ bands, I enrolled in music school through an on-line program with a focus on bass in 2013.  The commitment to more formalized study of bass created a foundation for a more profound understanding.  This understanding allowed me to “let it be”, and in the “being” of playing bass I began to have experiences almost impossible to put into words.

The one thing I can share is that I can feel this instrument through every cell of my body-mind.  The bass has shared its secret knowledge of how the low end is in fact a very deep spiritual plane of existence.  A miraculous place of existence where no thought exists.  Pure vibration.  Pure Joy.

So now what?  In the process of editing, mixing and mastering.  And, yes, studying, practicing, teaching.  All of it interconnected.  All of IT.

With gratitude, I am now off to teach yoga on retreat with Sally Kempton.  Our third at the Mount Madonna Center in California amongst the redwoods.  And then, in just a few months, I will be studying with Richard Freeman and Robert Thurman for a week up at the Menla Mountain House.

I am definitely grateful.

And, I promise to share some news sooner than one year from now.

With LOVE

TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN HAS ARRIVED…

trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.
–e.e. cummings

I chose this passage because it encompasses a profound aspect of the inescapable unknown; which is that we are largely not in control except for our ability to choose to love, again and again. To move from the infinite capacity of our hearts.

It is a great lesson which keeps bringing me back many times a year to my primary teachers, Sally Kempton and Richard Freeman. Why? Because the clarity and knowledge seeps in drop by drop. The practices can be elusive as the Mystery itself. It is a constant effort to center/ground oneself within All That Is.

It requires practice to continually open to the unfolding of Life without fear.

Letting It Be. Letting it Become.

Shriyoga and its dedicated community were practicing quietly the second half of 2014. There was nothing “incredible” to report. It was a time of practice, practice and more practice.

The prediction for 2015?

Practice.
And a good dose of intense study.

Love from Molokai as I embark on the first practices and studies of the year under the generous guidance of Richard Freeman, Mary Taylor and Robert Thurman.

Looking forward to sharing what I can when I emerge from retreat.

In the meantime…
Live by Love

YEAR TWENTY FOURTEEN

NOW.  ATHA. THE TEACHINGS OF YOGA.  YOGANUSASANAM.

Many years have come and gone according to the mind’s perspective of what is happening on this planet called Earth.  And, as my primary yoga teacher, Richard Freeman, so succinctly said during a led Primary Series at The Yogaworkshop in Boulder this most recent January 23rd, 2014:

After all these Years, it is still the Present.

NOW.  The Present.  NOW.  The Yoga.

The thoughts still bubble up… wanting to define, to create form and meaning, to defend against the NOW, against that it is still the Present, that there IS a Past and there WILL BE a Future, and that TWENTY FOURTEEN is THE YEAR to finally make a shift, jump a level, make a difference, become the best version of myself and not only speak the Truth, but BE the Truth.

All high ideals.  All ideas, concepts, hopes, dreams, intentions within the NOW.  Within the Present.  Doing begins to replace Being.  Lists are created.  50 items long, then 100, 101, 102, 198, 500+ and growing.  The NOW is full.  It is pregnant with potential, and it so vast, intelligent and, luckily, also… EMPTY.

I could sit here and list for you all the amazing, heartbreaking, surprising and yes, mundane moments within the NOW that encompassed the last 6 months of 2013 leading from the Summer Solstice to this moment called January 31st, 2014.  I could. The question is:  what is the intention of recounting that which has seemingly passed if the Present beckons us to relish NOW?

Can this day, January 31st, 2014, (another perceived new beginning) The Chinese New Year of the Horse, be an opportunity to realize that it is still the Present?

FULL and EMPTY.

For further information on what may unfold in TWENTY FOURTEEN, please go to our RETREAT PAGE for details on the exquisite philosophy and meditation master, Sally Kempton’s retreat of Transformative practices.  I have the privilege of teaching the yoga sessions each morning.  Please consider joining us for what promises to be powerfully rejuvenating retreat for your practices (and your soul!) in the ever-PRESENT Now.

FURTHER…SUMMER SOLSTICE 2013

Since the below account of the journey from the last Solstice through the beginning of March, Shriyoga life has been much about study, and further study.

In class our community classes on Greenwich Street we regularly invoke the Santi Path:

om saha navavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
tejasvinavadhitamastu ma vidvisavahai
om santih santih santih

We ask for protection and a nourishing, brilliant study together when we come to our mats.  This concept of study has been the theme.  Studying ourselves in the context of the practice.  Taking the time to really discern what is going on.

Elizabeth thanks Richard Freeman for teaching her the Santi Path and for further igniting the desire to study originally set afire by Sally Kempton.

SOLSTICE MUSINGS, DEATH, COSTA RICA, ITALY AND NOW, THAILAND…

We started the New Year inspired by Leo Villareal’s Buckyball and the Celestial Communication contemplative group practice we shared in Madison Square Park on December 20th.

Alive and well on January 1st, Elizabeth asked everyone “to ease into 2013” as we began our first practice of the year.

Then, Sally Kempton’s provocative suggestion to “stop struggling” raised the intentional bar.

Letting go of the struggle seemed like the only sane thing “to do” because so much was already on the calendar for first quarter 2013.  When one of Elizabeth’s two dearest cousins, Kathy Beimfohr died on January 6th, 13 hours shy of her 60th birthday, letting go became an organic expression.

There was no longer nothing “to do” except hold space to pause, breathe and notice existence as a pulsing, creative, never-ending unfolding of consciousness as everything and everyone

We continue to experiment with letting go of the struggle and LIFE continues to carry us with her constant flow of ideas, exchanges and relationships, old and new:

Costa Rica at favorite friend, Jeff Gossett’s The Sanctuary at Two Rivers was sublime.  Our band of Shriyogis most definitely retreated.

Then to Italia to talented yoga maestro, Piero Vivarelli’s most gracious ATMASTUDIO for February 14th evening workshop.  Piero’s translation brought a linguistic music to Elizabeth’s teaching.  By the end, each downward facing dog was an exquisite pranam to some experience of Kundalini Shakti.

The whirlwind trip to Italy also carried with it gifts of punk blues rock in Firenze, consciousness conversation over Bergamot risotto in Parma with new friends Monica and Claudio from Associazione Culturale Samsara and a joyful reunion with old friend and gorgeous inside/out yoga teacher, Marc Holzman.  We originally bonded tearfully on Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, circa 2003.  More on Marc’s teaching coming soon!

Shriyoga classes here on Greenwich and Canal Street grounded with the clarity that we do not need to rush as we already arrived.

Next up is Thailand as Elizabeth takes off her teaching cap and becomes a full time student under the masterful guidance of Richard Freeman.  2 weeks of Ashtanga Vinyasa, study of the grand Bhagavad Gita, chanting, satsang and meditation.

Letting go never felt so good.