allowah lotus beach

Welcome

Welcome to Allowah & The Great Yoga Quest

This site has two main purposes

The primary purpose is to provide resources to you on your “quest” for understanding.

Their intention is to help question our deepest held beliefs about the nature of reality.

The site tagline “resources for the liberated yogi” plays on the word “liberation” which obviously means “freedom,” but can also be read as liber-ation, with the suggestion that freedom can be found through reading (liber = book, as in library) and reflecting on and applying what we read. This is part of the yogic path called “Jnana Yoga,” which some have called the most direct path to moksha, a Sanskrit word meaning “freedom, liberation.” Thus this site will provide you with a good deal of thoughtful writing to read for all who are ready.

The other purpose of this site is to let you know about my current events and offerings.

Please click on the “offerings” tab for more about this.

My intention in all of this is to provide you with the most useful information and services that I can that will truly help you in your life.

Thank you for being here!

Namasté _/\_ Allowah

treenamaste_1

ps. Here is the cover of my new book, Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment. Please click HERE if you would like to pre-order your own autographed copy.

Top Choice cover

Learning to Let Go Yoga & Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica, May 21-28, 2016

pura-vida-spa-yoga-retreat

Learning to Let Go Yoga & Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica

Dates: May 21-28, 2016

Location: Pura Vida Spa in Costa Rica (http://www.rrresorts.com/pura_vida_spa/)

The whole process of yoga is a learning to let go. Letting go of what? Of all that we have learned that has covered over our inner light and blocked our awareness of love’s ever-presence. During this magical week together we will be working on releasing those stagnant places within ourselves to enjoy a more dynamic free flow of energy. We will do that by various health & wellness modalities, including twice daily yoga sessions, massage and bodywork, spa treatments, spiritual wisdom teachings, breathwork, sacred song, the yoga swing, conscious films, delicious food, and enlivening excursions. And there will be plenty of free time, too, to just be & enjoy the beauty & wonder of it all in a land called Pura Vida.

Allowah has been on the yoga and spiritual path for nearly 30 years and has much to share from his engagement with various spiritual traditions, including Kabbalah, Yoga, Plant Spirit Medicine, and A Course in Miracles. For more about him, please visit his website: http://www.allowah.org.

Allowah will be joined by the very gifted Ali Gardella as co-teacher and faciltator, who will also be offering massage and Reiki. Dr. Gerry Segal will also be offering massage and bodywork.

Cost of Retreat: $1700 and up

Contact # (239) 592-0898

email: allowah13@gmail.com

❤ Pura Vida❤

4849254_29_z

Press Release for “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics & the Quest for Enlightenment”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Company: Yoga University

Address:  4301 Gulfshore Blvd N   Naples, FL  34103

Contact Phone: (239) 592-0898

Contact Email: allowah13@gmail.com

Website: www.allowah.org

 

Pre-orders now available for book on yoga, psychedelics and enlightenment

Yoga teacher seeks support to share vision eight years in the making

Teacher and author Allowah Lani has announced pre-orders are now available for his book, “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment.” The book, which Lani has been working on for more than eight years is the product of research and in-depth interviews, and examines the interplay between psychedelic substances and yoga.

“I’ve been writing my whole life, and I was looking for a subject that I would feel so passionate about that I could not NOT write a book about it,” Lani said. “This subject is just that for me—it was just too juicy to not dive into wholeheartedly.”

Lani said that as he was growing up, even before he discovered yoga, he was interested in rock n’ roll, especially the music of the 1960s that was heavily influenced by psychedelic substances such as LSD. As he looked into the time period more, he found that there was a shift later in the decade toward mysticism, meditation and yoga, as exemplified both by Ram Das’ book “Be Here Now” and The Beatles’ turn away from LSD and toward Transcendental Meditation, which they learned in India from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“The book opens the door on a debate and discussion that will be with us for a long time yet,” Lani said. “And I do feel that it will bring readers that much closer to an answer to the universal question that lies at the heart of our collective spiritual quest: Who Am I?”

The book has drawn praise from early readers, including Anne Dillon, an author and editor at Rochester, Vermont-based published Inner Traditions • Bear & Company.

“The book deals with an important topic on the history of yoga and is a very engrossing read and a very unique book,” Dillon wrote. “In exploring its topic areas with the author, we feel as if we are falling down the rabbit hole hand-in-hand with him. He treats his exploration with the intellectual honesty, respect, and open-mindedness it deserves and the reader is drawn into the narrative by the lucidity of his prose and by his ever-expanding exploration of this fascinating area of study.”

Lani graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy and religious studies. He started a Ph.D. in comparative mysticism at New York University, but realized that academia was not the path he wanted to follow.

He has spent hundreds of hours learning and practicing various types of yoga, including Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Dharma Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Partner Yoga and AcroYoga.

More information about Lani and “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment.” Is available at:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/753307990/pre-order-my-new-book-who-am-i and www.allowah.org.

Top Choice cover

Pre-Order “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment”

 

About this project

Dear Readers!

I am very pleased to offer “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” to the world…

This project has been 8 years in the making and has taken countless hours of research, writing, marketing, editing, and now fundraising. It’s finally time to get it out and that feels good.

I’ve been writing my whole life and always knew that I would be an author, I was just looking for a subject that I would feel so passionate about that I could not NOT write a book about it. Well, the subject that this book deals with is just that for me, it was just too juicy to not dive into wholeheartedly.

And if you know me, you know that when I get into something, I really immerse myself in it; or, switching metaphors, it becomes all-consuming. Which is also one reason I am seeking your help, because all the time committed to this project has not afforded me as much time to devote to more profitable undertakings.

I believe that the subject matter of this book is of the highest import for each and every one of us because it deals head on with 2 of the most important topics of our time: Yoga and Psychedelics. Considering these subjects deeply with me in this book will be in and of itself a spiritual practice, if not enlightening.

(And, even though we all know not to judge a book by its cover, we also know that a “picture says a thousand words” and sometimes it is the cover alone that says it all — or at least all that one may need at that moment. I want to say right now that I LOVE the cover that Alexander Ward created for this project, and trust it will bring more readers to this book. Alexander is a brilliant visionary artist, you can learn more about him here: http://www.alexanderward.co.uk.)

I’m not going to go into all of the “story” and my process here, because after all, that’s what the book’s for, but I will say that I am not alone in this process, and I do know that there are many right now who will benefit from this book, because it is very much of this moment. It opens the door wide on a debate and discussion that will be with us for a long time yet. And I do feel that it will bring YOU that much closer to an answer to the universal question that lies at the heart of our collective spiritual quest: Who Am I?

Thank you for your help with getting this out and in your hands!

Namasté & AHO! : ) Allowah

Ps. And here’s a special message from my editor and award-winning author, Brian Francis Heffron:

Today I am delighted to tell you about a bold and informative new book created & designed for people just like you: people who are seeking spiritual answers to all the most important questions of our lives. Eight years in the making, Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment represents countless hours of research, numerous in-depth interviews, and months of organizing and editing all that material into a final polished, comprehensive, and accessible book.

Spirituality is a clearly a subject Allowah is very passionate about. He totally immersed himself in the mysteries of consciousness and enlightenment; topics that are for him, deeply engaging. Allowah’s book explores the practices of Yoga and Psychedelics, both individually, separately, and in combination. It’s time for his writing to meet his readers, and so he is seeking your help. Simply reading it will gently guide you on your own personal journey towards enlightenment. .

Allowah is not the only person in the world seeking spiritual answers to ultimate questions; there are many, many people who are also asking big questions, and who would benefit from an encounter with this book. “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” opens the door to mysteries we have all pondered. The goal of the book is to bring YOU, the reader, answers to these universal, timeless questions.

This kick-starter effort is a major milestone in bringing this book into the world. By reaching out into the world’s spiritual community for assistance, Allowah is casting his bread upon the water. How can you get involved? How can you help? How can you get your questions answered? Today you can pre-order a copy of Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment, right here, right now, right on this page!

Thank you in advance for your help in birthing this informative and eye-opening book. Please join us by following the instructions below to pre-order your copy of “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” today. Read it and be part of the spiritual solution. Thank you again for your time and consideration. ~ BFH

*

Some Advance Praise for “Who Am I?”

“This book MUST be read by people. Period.”

~ John Allen Gibel, Yoga Teacher & Scholar

*

“The author’s new book dealing with an important topic on the history of yoga is a very engrossing read and a very unique book. In exploring its topic areas with the author, we feel as if we are falling down the rabbit hole hand-in-hand with him. He treats his exploration with the intellectual honesty, respect, and open-mindedness it deserves and the reader is drawn into the narrative by the lucidity of his prose and by his ever-expanding exploration of this fascinating area of study. Drawing upon a wide array of “seekers” who have come before him, the author presents a straightforward and engaging narrative that investigates his topic for anyone and everyone on the road to enlightenment. The fact that there are no other books on the market that engages this specific subject makes this book’s appeal that much greater.”

~ Anne Dillon, Project Editor, Inner Traditions, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont “

*

“Just read the manuscript. Really liked it.”

~ Ganga White, Director of White Lotus and author of Yoga Beyond Belief

*

“Am reading your book. I think it’s important and well-written.”

~ Alisande Sweeney, Permaculturist

*

“Wow brother… just after a couple pages I’m hooked… I really really like it and your writing style. Please understand that I’m not just trying to make you feel good… it’s really really excellent.”

~ Joe Marshalla, Author of Repeatlessness

*

“Good read. Well written and held my attention, up after midnight a few nights not wanting to put it down.”

~ Carey Turnbull, veteran TM teacher & yoga scholar

*

“Wow!!!!!!! Just need to tell u I can’t put it down…Reading excerpts every night even when I’m thoroughly exhausted…It’s very engaging and written from such a deeply intimate place…Truly exceptional and unique in its honesty and your sharing these parts of your history and experience are a gift to anyone who will be fortunate enough to read it.”

~ Marie Colandrea, Yoga Student & Teacher

Some Thoughts on Leela, the Play of God

Someone Caught God Playing With Herself

or,

Thoughts on Leela ~ “The Play of God”

12139996_10208043630749373_3354110609366204032_o

Dedicated with Love to our Prince George Yoga Tribe, Thank You Beautiful Souls!❤

*

tad ekam sat vipram bahudha vadanti
“Truth is one, yet even the sages call it by many names.”
~ Rig Veda
*
Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He…
~ Rig Veda 10.129

These amazing passages from one of the oldest and most sacred of the world’s scriptures express something that attracted me from the very beginning of my love affair with yoga about India and the Hindu yoga tradition, namely, it’s open-endedness and absence of dogma.  This has translated into Hinduism’s great tolerance for even seemingly contradictory ideas.

This tolerance and flexibility, if you will, can be seen in the fact that there is no one founder of Hinduism (such as a Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Muhammed), and no one scripture that is considered to be the sole authoritative one (even the Holy Vedas are not).  Rather, there are many Hinduisms, many yoga schools, and many saints, sages, swamis, and gurus with their respective schools and lineages.   The idea, as expressed in the Vedic hymn (above), is that there are many ways to get there, numerous trails up the mountain, something for everyone in the smorgasborg of spirituality laid before us to partake.   But at the end of the day, there is only one place to go…

Truth is One, paths are many,”

said the late Swami Satchidananda, echoing the ancient Vedic dictum.

      And thus, when the student is ready for a particular teaching, the teaching will appear in some form or another, and the form itself ultimately does not matter.  And when that lesson is learned –or rather, embodied — then the next, deeper teaching will present itself to the seeker, and then the next, and the next…  At least in theory, this will go on and on until there is Nothing more to learn and Nowhere (Now Here) to go, in other words, until the point of “enlightenment” — a point to be considered in due time!

Since we’re on the subject of Creation stories… In the Hasidic tradition, there is a beautiful quote that runs,

             “God created the world because God loves stories.” 

     Whether this is at all true is also something that will be touched on here, yet I at least love stories, you?

Well, here’s a wee little one…

I believe Freud is to be credited with the observation that when we’re young, our parents are like gods to us, and up until a certain age, we treat them as such, becoming chips off the old blocks, so to speak.   When I was eleven years old, my parents went through what I experienced to be a painful separation.  Painful because the fairytale was over for me, the Queen banished forever from the King’s Castle, and my hot air ballooning sense that we would be one happy family forever deflated quite abruptly and decidedly.

So one day, a few years later after the Queen’s exile…

I was over at my dad’s house when my mom happened to call and start to berate me for something, related to the fact that I was with my dad and she didn’t like that (this happened often enough at that time).  My dad overheard some of what was happening with me and my mom there on the phone and he said something that I still have not forgotten to this day, partly because it was a little out of character for him, I thought:

                                                           “Tell her you didn’t ask to be born.”  

He said it facetiously, like to get her off my back, yet this was an idea that I had already begun to really ponder and vibe with, namely, the feeling that I could let go of all feelings of guilt and judgment because hey, I didn’t ask for this life, it was just thrust upon me (Gee, thanks, mom! )

If so, why was everyone on my case about everything?  Why this big heap of guilt and judgment all the time?  Sheeshkabob!

Of course, I could have said the same thing to my Dad when he was giving me a hard time about something.  This is all your fault, bro, lay off!

[btw, Bill Cosby, one of my favorite comedians but who has been drawn and quartered of late, has drawn much comic material from his own childhood and has a new book out called “I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was)“]

I do believe this idea of not asking to be born, if taken to its extreme, contains a very strong kernel of truth. On the one hand, from the standpoint of reincarnation (which I do believe is true in a relative sense), we did in fact ask to be born. We even planned it all out and wrote the whole bloody script, even down to who was going to be in our family, core group of friends, etc.  So we’re not off the hook that easy! And to bring the above story to a close, I never got off the hook with either of my parents that easy, either!

On a still deeper root level, though, the question arises:

Who, or what, is this “I” personality that seems to keep reincarnating lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, how did that happen?

Was that something that “I” asked for?  And again: Who, or what, is this “I”?

    Who the heck Am I anyway?

    Recently I’ve gotten very much into A Course in Miracles, recognizing it to be the next big thing in the unfolding of my own spiritual journey.  I’m noticing that a lot of other people are waking up to the profundity of this work, too. Another little story…

So I’d been living on Maui and happen to be of the Mosaic persuasion (i.e., I’m Jewish by birth — did i sign up for that, too?) and even though I didn’t make it, I heard that there was this great rabbi here who was flown in to lead Yom Kippur (aka, the “Day of Atonement” – the “holiest” day of the year on the Jewish calendar) services.  This rabbi was not traditional in the sense that he didn’t stick solely to the Torah, Talmud, and other Jewish sources.  He was just as much at home quoting Rumi, the Tao Te Ching, and guess who… our old messianic and similarly unorthodox friend, Jesus, who is the stated voice that dictated A Course in Miracles (aka “The Course”) to Helen Shuchman nearly 50 years ago now.

So I was told, the rabbi began his sermon with the opening words of the Course:

Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God.

     Wow, a rabbi on Yom Kippur quoting the words of Jesus as channeled by an atheistic Jewish psychology professor in the heart of the Big Apple some 5 decades ago (!)  Surely a sign o’ the times, which perhaps could be described as “post-traditional,” a time when the best of the world’s spiritual traditions are being brought together all on one buffet table, much as your Whole Foods superfoods section contains the most superb foods from various tradtional cultures around the globe.

Yet back to the main point, which is how A Course in Miracles views the Creator’s creation of the world.

Essentially, it never happened.

Really?  Yes, really.

    As the opening salvo of the rabbi’s sermon above indicates, if only God is real, and the world of impermanence that we feel to be so real is in reality not real, then how could God have created this world?  Why would, and how could, what is Real create what is false?

As the poet-sage of the Rig Veda humbly admits, he didn’t really have a clue either, but he was pretty damn sure it was a toss up between 2 possibilities: Either God did it, or God didn’t!  Pretty brilliant, no?  Hey, anyone’s got a 50-50 chance of getting that one! They didn’t call ’em sages for nothin’!

So later, it seems, some of these wiseacre sages got cleverer about how to answer this whole question.

God didn’t create the world, actually, but somehow it still came from God.

Whaaaaa?

um, How?

“The play’s the thing…”

(remember Hamlet?)

Yes, the idea somehow came through that God was lonely or some craziness like that and wanted to feel what it felt like to have a playmate, namely the dualistic Universe of namarupa, name and form, yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti…

This is the idea of “Lila,” that the whole cosmic manifestation that we find ourselves in is the “Play of God,” sometimes also referred to as the “Divine Drama,” in which we are all merely players/actors (again, Shakespeare).  Now, the squeaky keen reader will still be wondering WHY on earth God would/could do this if God is perfect Oneness for which nothing could possibly be added or taken away…?  Sounds preposterous, no?  Why would God need a “playmate” (the Universe) in other words when She could just Self-Pleasure Herself for all Eternity (figuratively speaking, of course ; )?

Here’s one recent, decent answer to this that I found in Gary Renard’s second book dealing with the Course, Your Immortal Reality, which is a dialogue between Renard and two ascended masters, Arten and Pursah:

Gary: “…there are people who think that God couldn’t experience Himself in Oneness, and the only way He could experience Himself was to make this world and live in it….

Pursah: “…The idea of thinking that God would have to make this world in order to experience duality so he could enjoy Himself is the equivalent of the idea that in order to experience and enjoy sex, you would have to also experience getting shot in the gut.  No. Pain is the result of the guilt that came from thinking you separated yourself from God, and you don’t have to experience pain in order to experience the pleasure of reality.  But you do have to forgive pain and suffering and give it up in order to return to reality.”

It’s at this point that the idea of paradox perhaps needs to be brought in, paradox being a Greek word that literally means “beyond belief.”  A paradox is the concept that two seemingly contradictory ideas can somehow be reconciled, like having your cake and eating it, too, or the chicken and egg manifesting at the same time, something like that.

For if the conception of God is one of Absoluteness – that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — or even that God is absolutely transcendent of everything, then we still want to say that some way somehow, God did create the world, or that it came to be through God’s agency somehow, otherwise God wouldn’t truly be God, would God?!?  The idea we find in A Course in Miracles is that a “tiny, mad idea” was somehow in the Cosmic Mind that “gee, what would it be like to be separate from God…?”

Now, most people I’ve spoken with do not find this completely satisfying, because it still seems to suggest that God had something to do with it, otherwise where could that tiny, mad idea come from?

Well, if God is truly infinite, then there might be a sense in which God contains within Godself infinite possibility. This could also mean that God contains within Godself even the thought “not-God.” Yet even that thought is still part of God and could never actually be separate from God – it’s a possibility and could even appear to become an actuality, but that would only be from within the idea itself that it would all seem real. In and of itself, however, it would really only be a possibility in the Mind of God, nothing more, but also nothing less.

To return now to the idea of “Divine Play” (lila/leela) that we find in the Hindu tradition, and one that has definitely taken hold in the minds of many…Perhaps we can now reconcile the seemingly opposing view that we find in the Course with this idea. On this view, God also did not willfully create the world, yet it still rose from God as God’s “Lila” or divine play from out of the eternal bliss of God’s Self.  As one commentator has put it:

   “Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.”

                     —Ram Shanker Misra, The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo

For those who need an answer to this question, there you have it, and I do feel that this is the closest we’re going to get to it using just our intellects.   While for those deep thinkers (or overthinkers : ) out there I realize that even this will not be sufficient, I do feel this is enough. What I especially appreciate about both the Advaita Vedanta and what is presented in A Course in Miracles is their downplaying the theological and philosophical speculation on these Big Questions in favor of the actual empirical experience of these truths through the continual practice of removing the cloudiness in our minds that have obscured the light of the sun.   As the Course famously says:

       “The ego will demand many answers this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. The ego may ask, ‘How did the impossible occur?’, ‘To what did the impossible happen?’, and may ask this in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you.”

The Course (or Jesus, the narrator of the Course) goes even further to tell us that actually, the only reason the ego has these questions to begin with is to say something like: “See, I exist! I’m real! Now tell me (or don’t tell me!) how I’m not real!” So at various places in the Course, Jesus makes radical statements like the following:

“Your questions have no answer, being made to still God’s Voice,

which asks of everyone one question only:

“Are you ready yet to help Me save the world?””

         Another way of putting all of this is that the only way for the ego to have a truly satisfying answer to these ultimate questions is for the ego to be completely dissolved – at which point there will be no more ego to appreciate the answer! Until that point, there will only be, there can only be, doubt and questions.   This is where faith must come in, and a firm commitment to keep that faith and keep practicing, even with doubts. The good news is that even just on the illusionary level at which we currently are, the practices that will “undo” the ego will also generally create a happier, healthier, more peaceful life. So we do get our cake and eat it, too!

In other words, while it is indeed helpful to be aware of the questions and these metaphysical issues, they mean nothing if there is no practical application of them.

And so I will leave you with one of my favorite philosophy jokes:

 

What is Mind?

Oh, no matter.

 

What is Matter?

Never mind!

 Jokes-Only-Philosophy-Geeks-Will-Understand-010

Introducing the Ohmazing Yoga Swing

namasté

      The Yoga Swing is a great new way to stretch, strengthen, and invert your body in a safe and fun way. It can take your yoga practice to a whole other level. It’s also easy to travel with and makes a great gift!   What we are offering is essentially 20-40% off the regular price of the basic yoga swing (parachute model), including a personalized skype class ($20 value) that will teach you how to install and use your swing in a safe way.

We also work with ZeroGravityGym.com , the maker of some of the best yoga swings on the market today.  Their swings are of the best quality and most durable, though they are also more expensive, so this option is for those who have the $ to spend for a higher-end product.  Also highly recommended!

392783_10200896104225677_682616986_n

Talia in the original parachute model.

***

PRICING

 

Full Cost of Swing & Class Together:

 $160 (includes shipping)

paypal_buynow

Most Major Colors Available.

SPECIAL! Purchase 5 Swings, Get One Free

 Contact Us for Bulk Orders: allowah13@gmail.com

To Prepare for your Swing, PLEASE Watch the Following Videos…

Here’s a video we created with the amazing yogini Sasha Dae in Nosara, Costa Rica:

Here’s one of Allowah teaching some Yoga Swing basics on Maui:

 

And this one is by Yogi Zen, the creator of the yoga swing:

Nice little video on how to install your swing once you get it:

You can email us @ allowah13@gmail.com for more info.

Thank You & Hope to Swing With You Soon!

Om Shanti ~ Allowah @ Yoga University

yogauniversity.ca

allowah.org

3~’ 3~’ 3~’

SOME MORE VIDEOS & PICS

Video Testimonials

“STOKED TO MY CORE !!! I just received my yoga swing, up side down hammock creative handle climb and stretch play tool in the rafters under roof in the gentle Haiku wind…. ah, I am stretching to new horizons in there.

       Mahalo for this item that was/is my inner child dream . Mahalo Talia and Allowah to make my dream come true… Anyone would love the ease of use and ease of installation ! LOVE IT !!! BODY MEDICINE.”

                                                            ~ Stephanie, Maui

*******************

CARA PROVENZANO TESTIMONIAL & DEMO

**************

ALYSE MARIE TESTIMONIAL & DEMO

IMG_3370

IMG_3328

IMG_3336

942913_10200792571484284_1319729840_n

IMG_1374

Radical Forgiveness Breathwork

Radical Forgiveness Breathwork

What It Is…

The intention behind Radical Forgiveness Breathwork is simply to provide a vehicle for deep healing via the medium of the breath and communal support. In this safe and loving setting, participants are allowed to let go of all that is no longer serving them, and to be “reborn” into a truer, more authentic version of themselves.

The main practice of RFB is deep, connected breathing through the mouth for a period of an hour or more. This can be intense and does give new meaning to the word “work” in “breathwork.” Yet it pays off in deep releases that occur if sustained for a period of time. These releasings can include crying, laughing, ecstatic states, kundalini, release of stored memories, etc. None of these are to be denied, and all of them are welcome in the group. They are deep traumas and/or blockages that are being released, and as such are to be embraced.

In reality, the deeper practice of this form of breathwork is the mind’s firm decision for healing. As A Course in Miracles teaches, getting to the “radical root” of the “problem” means recognizing that it is not the body that needs healing, but the mind. Yet our belief in the body is yet so strong that these practices can indeed feel very helpful. Still, let us not lose sight of the fact that the only thing that really needs healing is our investment in the belief that we are separate from God. This is what is meant by “radical forgiveness.” In this forgiveness, we re-mind ourselves that there is no need for forgiveness, because the separation from God never happened.

   
  Guidelines

  

The session is approximately 2 1/2 hours.

Participants gather in a circle.

The first 15 minutes are explanatory: What it is. Q & A.

The next 15 minutes is intention setting, aloud in the circle.

The next 20-30 minutes is warm-up with ecstatic dance.

Then the breathing begins, first standing, then kneeling, then sitting, and finally lying on one’s back. This takes approximately 1 hour, possibly a little more or a little less.

For the next 15 minutes, the group rests in Shavasana, in silence or with relaxing music. At least a few minutes of silence is recommended.

The final 15 minutes is a closing circle where participants share about their experience.

What It Does & What Might Happen…

     Radical Forgiveness Breathwork is akin to shamanic practices and has the potential of bringing about an altered state. This state might include blissed out breathlessness (Samadhi), a Kundalini awakening, and even a full awakening to one’s essential nature, among other things.

   On occasion, intense fear might come up, and this is nothing to be afraid of.   The Facilitator/Space Holder will insure that you are safe and feel protected at all times. He/She might also assist you in the process through some comforting thought, word, or action. The music that is played throughout will also be uplifting, inspirational, and supportive of your journey.

     Some people experience something called “tetany” when they do this form of breathing. Symptoms of this include a curling in of the hands, sometimes feet, and sometimes a change in facial expression. Again, this is nothing to be afraid of, but comes with the territory. In fact, it’s a sure sign that you have been successful in your breathing!

     In physiological terms, you are introducing a very increased amount to the upper respiratory system. This often induces feelings of heat, increased heart rate, shaking and trembling. Again, all of these are signs that you are well on your way!

         AFFIRMATIONS

Forgiveness is my only function here.

I remember my function with each breath.

Inspiration: I breathe in the guidance of Spirit.

Expiration: I let go of all false images that hide the Light of Spirit.

I Breathe in Love

I Breathe out Fear

I Breathe in Forgiveness

I Let Go of All Judgment

Inhale Love

Exhale Fear

Inhale Love

Exhale Peace to All

Inhale Joy

Exhale All that Does Not Serve

nadi-predictions

Faith Quest: The Mystery That Is Nadi Astrology

   FAITH QUEST:

THE MYSTERY THAT IS NADI ASTROLOGY

 

“Passage to India!”

                              ~Walt Whitman

 

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

                                ~ Shakespeare

For many, like myself, getting into yoga was like falling in love. Suddenly, it’s like you’ve come home and it’s so beautiful, you just can’t get enough and your heart is full to overflowing. Yet the Honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Doubt begins to creep back in and the real work starts. If we were truly in touch with and honest about our feelings, we could look squarely at it and see that something just isn’t working any more. At this point could either jump ship, or try our best to plug that hole in the relationship.   For me, there was no question of jumping ship, because yoga had awakened something in me so deep in those first few years that there was never any way I could go back to my former life. The Beloved had rocked me awake from my slumber and had me knocking at Her door for further sailing.

In the realm of relationships, we have this curious expression in English of being “faithful” to our partner, and one of the greatest taboos in our society is to be “unfaithful” in the realm of love. In reality, how many marriages and relationships that remain intact do so while in a state of shipwreck. Again, is it more noble and courageous to stay with the sinking ship, or to swim for shore? Wisdom suggests that there are no wrong moves in this game of life, yet that wisdom also needs faith to support it and make it more than mere regurgitation of sage advice. In my case, I was left wondering when and where that faith would come from as I had always seemed to get so close, so close…only to have the Great Whale slip through my fingers, leaving me to tell the story of the big one that got away. In other words, I was on a quest for true, unshakeable faith in something that I could hold onto both as a guide and source of continual inspiration. My teachers alone, when I was honest with myself, still left me doubting.  This book, and the story you are about to read in particular, is a document of my search for that archimedean anchor point by which I could in a sense prove my faithfulness to my lover and myself.

***

When I was in Bangalore during my first India trip, my mentor, L, strongly suggested I go get a palm leaf reading. Now, like you most likely, I had no clue what a palm leaf reading was… “Is it like reading your palm?” I asked naively.   L laughed and explained that thousands of years ago, in deep meditation, certain yogi sages were able to access the life information of souls who were to incarnate in the future. In other words, they were able to read what has now popularly known in New Age circles and beyond as the “Akashic Records,” which is believed to be an etheric storehouse where all material impressions (karma) are archived. These great seers then recorded this information on palm leaves and the leaves were passed down from generation to generation via lineage with the knowledge of how to read and interpret them.

So essentially, a palm leaf reading (known in India as “Nadi,” or “lifestream” readings) is, at least in theory, a soul analysis done by a highly trained person who knows how to find, read, and interpret a person’s individual leaf. The idea, as mind blowing as this sounds, is that if you go to a palm leaf reader, you’re probably meant to, and your leaf has been there waiting for you for possibly thousands of years, collecting dust until that moment when you arrive to get your reading.

I can see some of you turning this off already, yet hang in there. While it is true there are all manner of frauds in India making one outrageous claim or another, if there is just one that is true, then it is worth examining these matters.   Being a seeker myself and new to all of this, I was all for going to the Nadi Reader and seeing if my leaf was really there. I wasn’t that naïve, however; I was trained in philosophy and did know how to think criticially and ask questions. As with Paul Brunton, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with anything more than exact details there on the leaf – names, numbers, past and future events foretold, etc.   Having been in India for a couple of weeks already, though, I was realizing that this kind of certainty was going to be hard to come by. Still, I was hopeful and game, so off we went…

[What follows is a reliable reconstruction of the events based upon my journal, recollection, and notes I took during my Nadi reading.]

Praying to Ganesha all along, yet still there are obstacles…First thing that happens when we arrive at the Nadi reader’s place is that it looks like he won’t have time for me today, and after all, I haven’t made an appointment. But we wait it out (my friend, at least, knows not to take “no” for an answer in India) and after an interminable wait with lots of mantras and attempts at meditation, we’re finally led into his inner chamber, which is basically just a little office with a small room in the back of his desk housing the leaves.

This Nadi reader is very sweet, speaks good English and seems somewhat cosmopolitan.   He’s probably seen not a few westerners like me, after all.   He first asks me some basic questions about my life, which I have no idea why he needs really, but I obligingly answer everything he asks. Then he takes my thumbprint and goes into his little back room to look for my leaf. It isn’t too long before he comes back and asks me a few more questions to narrow down his search. After another trip back into his inner chamber, he comes back with my leaf (or, at least, my reading). He asks me some more questions, and then proceeds to give me the contents of the leaf. He suggests that I take a pencil and paper and make notes as he would not be able to record what he says, which I do. What follows is a transcript of the shorthand notes I took.

My Nakshatra [astrological sign in the Vedic Astrology system] is Chitra. This is the most mystical of signs. Overcoming sexual desire is a big thing, or can be. I was the third child. I was formed first and came last. [I didn’t understand this at first, but later guessed this meant that my fraternal twin is really the youngest, the fourth – something that the psychic in Jerusalem had already told me.]

   I have “researching potential.” I know 3 languages, Spanish being one of them [this is true to an extent – I am very familiar by this time with Hebrew and Sanskrit, too]. I will be a writer, philosopher, and teacher. I will write a philosophy book that synthesizes psychology, Vedanta, and religion. [While I have yet to do this, I have begun work on another book dealing with these subjects.]

I will do “unification work.” I will also teach philosophy. I will be a traveler to learn. I want to meet my guru, but my guru is not alive. I will meet many masters, but find my own way. I will find the reality of knowledge and life. [This definitely all spoke to me.]

     I am aware that I have some blockages inside. These blockages will go when I learn these “knowledges” and languages.

     In my last life, I was born in India, and was a teacher of non-dualistic knowledge and Vikarana [Grammar – didn’t know what it meant at the time.]

   In this life, through the practices of Kundalini Yoga, I will learn all Vedanta and grammar. Patanjali’s Yoga system will open my third eye, which will “give brightness in inner life.”   He also said: “Yoga will give strength for inner life.”

     I was born in Israel in Jesus’ time, and had close contact with Jesus. I was a witness to Jesus’ punishment at the time. [Ain’t I special.]

       I went to Nepal at the bottom of the Himalayas. I criticized my masters and gave away secrets to “non-permitted people.” As a result, in this lifetime I have these certain blockages, and due to awareness of these, I am very careful about mistakes in this life. [In the margin of my notes, I wrote: “Is that so?” which is a question the Nadi reader asked me in regard to making mistakes. I answered “yes” because I was becoming increasingly conscious and careful in regard to my every thought, word, and deed, making sure that I was truly living in accordance with the wisdom I was learning, though I certainly was making mistakes (or what felt like them).]

     I will also have a lot of experiences in the region of the Himalayas – I will go in this lifetime. [Have yet to go].

   I was born in Spain, but the land in which I was born no longer exists now. [I take it this meant in one of my past incarnations, which might explain my interest in Spanish and in studying abroad in Spain at one moment in college, but then again, it’s too general and I wasn’t that interested in any case.]

   I have a desire to live in the countryside and do research. I will live in the Southeast of North America [I was then living in the Northeast, and am now in Florida, the Southeast].

     The Nadi reader then asked if I have taught? I said that I have taught in High School. He said that I will teach languages in college. He later said I would do many kinds of work. [I have not taught officially at a college as of yet, though I do run a yoga school called “Yoga University.”]

   Health: Stomach is sensitive. Must eat slowly. Having a regular time of eating is best. May have an operation on stomach or throat [None such operations to date, though eating slowly has been a challenge]. Pranayama will give good health for me. Also, water therapy: Drink water in the early morning and 30 minutes prior to lunch and dinner.

     Relationships: I am separated from my partner. I would marry second important girl in that year. I would find her in 19-20 months. My coming partner will be a good healer and counselor. We would have 1 child “if both minds permit.” We would live together for many years, then marry. [Well, I was “separated” from my partner only in the sense that I was in India and she was in Philadelphia at the time, though it wasn’t long before we were to go our separate ways, and that might have been about 19-20 months later. If that’s what he was referring to, then he was right on, but I did not find someone new that year or in 19-20 months (you can see there were some contradictions there). I wasn’t to get into a relationship for another 8 years, in fact.]

     I was told to recite a certain mantra for jnana (wisdom, spiritual knowledge, gnosis).   The Nadi reader wrote it on the page in both Sanskrit and English. I was to repeat it 30 minutes each day – 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the evening, and 10 just prior to sleep. [I never kept up with this practice, partly due to doubts about all of this, and — so many practices, so little time!…]

The Nadi reader then asked if I had any questions? Yes, did I ever. First I asked him about meditation…He said I should do Patanjali’s 8-limbed path like he said, and that path includes meditation.

   What about music? Do it as a hobby, I was told.

   Then I hesitantly expressed my doubts to the Nadi reader, telling him that while there were a lot of accurate things in the reading, some things were incorrect, such as his saying that the woman I am separated from is older than me (not to mention the fact that we weren’t truly separated, though I did not say this).   He had a ready response for that: You can read it that she is older than me in knowledge, or spiritually older, not in years. This didn’t seem right, however, as originally he had said that she is one year older than me.

So overall I was not over-impressed, somewhat under-whelmed, yet nonetheless intrigued. Clearly there were some things that seemed pretty right on, yet this could be due to the initial questions he asked (which included my birth date, so he could have based a lot of it on astrology), educated guesswork, and his own intuitive powers. I was even more inclined to think this guy didn’t have the goods when I found out my roommate from Australia got a very similar reading, which included the same curse and the same mantra to alleviate it. Good thing I only paid 850 rupees, or $17, I thought, though this was a good living for him and I’m sure if he was deceiving people, the placebo effect was in effect for many.

Later, though, I was to hear about another Nadi astrologer not too far away in the Chennai area. This guy apparently really was the real deal with a tradition going back to an ancient sage named Agasthya and whose palm leaves contain specific names and other details about one’s incarnation. At the airport on my way back to the States, I ran into a fellow ashramite who had gone to see this particular Nadi reader.   He was clearly sold and excitedly told me that his leaf contained the following information:

His Name

His Father’s Name

His Mother’s Name

His First Wife’s Name

His Second Wife’s Name

And more.

       Mind you, this was all written in Tamil so he couldn’t actually read the names himself, yet still…I was so blown away by this that I wanted to go see this guy immediately. My friend said he was going to both film him doing his readings and also try to bring him to the States. I doubt this ever happened, only because I haven’t heard about it, and also because if more people knew about it and this was all more accessible, there would be droves getting readings and I doubt there are that many leaves. I am very glad to be wrong about this.

This is now all pretty ancient history, from way back in about 2001. Since then I have heard of a project to put all of the Nadi leaves onto a computer database that people can access (if they are meant to have a reading).   I suspect the readings won’t be as cheap as they are in India.

Also, since my last India trip in 2001, I have heard several more reliable first-hand reports about Nadi readers who certainly seem genuine, including a pretty convincing one on Youtube of a man who apparently went to see the same Nadi reader in Chennai [endnote]. This and the original blog posting containing this story from back in 2008 received several very interesting comments, both for and against. Some said that these astrologers are basically con men who are very skilled at the game of 20 Questions; essentially, you give them all of the information prior to their “finding” your leaf and then they just basically regurgitate that same information in an official and authoritative sounding way. While I would agree that this is no doubt true for some if not many of the Nadi readers, again, we must consider those few and far between cases that are not so easy to dismiss.

Some of the commentators on my original blog piece also begged to differ with those crying “fraud.” On October 24, 2008, someone by the name of Robert Miller wrote in response to one of the comments on the thread that was critical of Nadi Astrology:

“Sorry dude, the permutations and combinations possible even with the info given by you is simply too much to just zero into the right name and date of birth. Try it yourself. As far as I am concerned, I went to a Nadi Astrologer in Kanchipuram. He gave me a different date of birth and insisted that he was correct and that my official date of birth is wrong. I went back home a month later and checked with my mother. My mother told me that the hospital officials gave a wrong date of birth. WOW. I was stunned as I was celebrating my birthday a day ahead for the first 25 years of my life…He [also] predicted that I will completely change direction of education and pursue higher studies abroad. All this apart from [author’s note: I think he meant “including”] many family details and future predictions came true. I was a hardcore skeptic before this incident. Now I am not so sure about things we don’t fully understand.”

Another commentator similarly mentioned how her father went to a Nadi reader when she was 10-11 years old and all of the information told to her father was true, adding that “a copy of the Tamil verses was given to us, which I was able to understand with some difficulty…I don’t think they can cook up or come up with so much info on the fly.”

Another commentator wrote:

       “Do not stamp the leaf as fraud. First one in Tambaram West in Chennai I found read out from the leaf that my younger brother was killed in a bomb attack as he was in public service He did not ask me about my brothers and their jobs. My brother was killed in the bomb attack on RSS office in Chennai on 8/8/93. I consulted them on 19/8/93…Later in 2008 I consulted another Nadi [reader]. There it is written that I have opted for VRS and I was working in a financial institution. I did not give my date of birth in Tamil or Christian calendar yet he gave it to me in Tamil year and month. He also said my age now. How can he calculate my age without knowing my date of birth?”

While fairly convincing to me, especially in light of my other research and firsthand reports, this anecdotal evidence still would not be sufficient for the skeptic, and I, too, would still want to witness all of this for myself.   In other words, I would still need to go see the Nadi Reader in question and see all of these things with my own eyes to really feel this was real, and even then there might still be questions in my mind. That said, recently I heard a report from a very reliable witness of the truth of Nadi Astrology, a report which I will relate to you momentarily. Before I do, I feel it will be interesting to present one other fascinating response to my initial blogpost on this subject, posted by one Debasish Sen in 2010. This commentator claims to have insider information on how Nadi Astrologers fool the public into believing that they are reading from ancient parchment when in reality they are contacting a “hereditary deity” who is reading your mind(!)

Nadi Astrology: How it works…just read on…

   Recently I was under pressure from family members to visit a Nadi Astrologer. The procedure is that one has to give the thumb impression to the astrologer and answer to queries regarding details of siblings, parents, property owned, placement of letters in names, etc. etc. Such details are to be given by the person but the full names are not asked or revealed. The astrologer then says the full names of all persons and many details of the past which generally are 100 percent correct. He also mentions some of the incidents of the past life. Later he predicts the future and proposes to do some poojas [rituals to propitiate a deity] or yagna [fire ceremonies for same purpose] for 1 mandalam (48 days) or 2 in a far away place/temple inaccessible by the person and also gives an option or a short cut for the pooja by giving the money directly to him. The accurate portrayal of the past generally overwhelms most persons and they happily agree to part with the money for the poojas and the costly service charges. One may find more about Nadi Astrology by surfing the net. This is another method to fool the person and encash his ignorance by bringing into the picture the great saint Agasthya.

       Demi-gods or lower gods also finds a place in creation. Some of the services of the lower gods are easily purchased for a so-called “joint-venture.” The percentage of profit is agreed from the temple they purchase it and has to be given to the temple failing which the results could be disastrous.  It is not possible to cheat the demi-gods as the demigods are after all divine incarnations.

   When the victim approaches the astrologer for help, the astrologer asks various queries – as mentioned above. The answers of these queries are actually questions posed to the demigod to get the correct identity of the person. Once it is got, all other past details are easily available by the demigod. These details are only heard by the astrologer. This may sound unscientific but really is not.

   Demigods are unable to accurately predict the future and hence the predictions are mostly not correct. Demigods are also used by astrologers, sooth-sayers, magicians, fraud god-men who materialize processed goods from scratch, which really is only shifting i.e, dematerializing, shifting and rematerializing.

     How I came to know about it?

I have a friend who is an ardent Shiva devotee and who made a small portion of his house a Shiva temple. He has been a Shiva Devotee and has been continuing for the past 25 years or so. But their hereditary god is a demigod. It seems the hereditary god also wanted to be revered and so he wanted a separate temple for it. He was also given the privilege of asking questions (or thinking and posing questions) to the demigod and he would get the answer about past incidents. But my friend never used this privilege for monetary gains. For those who come with a problem, he just queries it and suggests solutions for their well-being. He has helped me many times, such as when I misplaced a very important file in my office and also when my colleague created havoc by creating a bad name for me in the office. When I wanted to know about the practice of Nadi Astrology, I asked for his help and he let me know the actual functioning of it by querying it with the demi-god.

     Sage Agasthya no doubt was a great sage. But it is ridiculous to say that he wrote the names and fate of persons 1200 years ago as if everything is destined and future generations do not have free will at all. I just wanted to share the information. It is the wish of the readers to believe or not. If at all you believe, please share the information and prevent the cheats from taking over.”  

Well, if these individuals truly can communicate with hereditary deities to gain information for their clientele, not only is this worthy of our attention, but we might even be able to overlook that they are fooling the public if their information is accurate and helpful. That’s assuming that this alternative hypothesis about what Nadi readers do is really true. Obviously, if the information is written on a palm leaf in Tamil that can be dated back to Sage Agasthya’s time, then this explanation would be incorrect.

You will note that one commentator on my blog was given a copy of the Tamil verses, though she did not say that she was given a copy of the actual leaf, which means that they could have been written on the spot, however unlikely that sounds. In the video mentioned above, the man who received his reading brought with him someone who could read Tamil and who confirmed what was written on the leaf. This is rather strong evidence, unless what was written on the leaf was composed right there on the spot. It might be a question of to what extent the Nadi astrologers will go to in order to fool the public and keep themselves in business. For me, as with the subject matter of this book, this still remains an open question and a mystery that will perhaps never be completely unraveled in any satisfying way for everyone.

       Postscript

I attended Bhakti Fest for the first time in the summer of 2014 and there had the pleasure to hear Dr. Manoj Chalam give a talk on the archetypes of the Hindu deities.   During the course of that presentation, Dr. Chalam seemingly digressed to tell us the story of his going to visit that same Nadi reader that has been rocking people’s world.   Someone had told him about the astrologer and on a recent trip to India he just happened to be in the area, so…

Dr. Chalam’s report was similar to the others: He was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the astrologer was not a fraud and had access to information that he not only did not give him, but which the man could not have gotten without access to either a higher power or psychic abilities. Not only did his leaf apparently have very personal details of his past and present, but the leaf also contained the exact time of his death. When the astrologer asked him if he wished to know the date, he said yes. Perhaps this is how some Indian gurus have known the date of their death. On the other hand, if the other explanation of the hereditary deities is correct, then this also explains why some gurus have incorrectly foretold the time of their death, as was the case with Sathya Sai Baba.

      

A Balance of Roots & Wings: The Bliss of Flying Yoga

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children:
One is roots, the other is wings.”

 ~ Hodding Carter

      There’s a new a new yoga craze sweeping the nation: Acro-Yoga (which we call “Flying Yoga” — see below). Actually, this style of yoga has officially been around for nearly a decade or more already (click HERE for more), but it’s only in the last few years or so that it’s really taken off. Before that, it was known in yoga circles, but no one had yet made it into its own unique, identifiable, trademarked brand of yoga. In reality, it’s probably a pretty ancient practice, maybe as old as the circus (not to mention something that mommies and daddies do with their kids all the time!) In the world of yoga, it’s at least as old as the 1930s when the “godfather” of modern yoga, TVK Krishnamacharya, taught it to his students, who did public, circus-like yoga demonstrations to advertise the power of yoga to the world. Here’s a link to a Youtube video showing the master and his students practicing this form of yoga:

      So why did it take so long for this type of yoga to catch on, one might wonder? It’s so fun, everyone seems to love it. Well, I would suggest it’s at least partly because there has been some lightening up and loosening of boundaries in the yoga world, and this is probably a good thing. It also seems that when something gets trademarked, branded, and made into a system, there’s much more of a chance of it really becoming an identifiable entity in its own right, a household term.

       Before I go on, let me just say a little something about the name for this kind of yoga, and why I do not use the term “Acro-Yoga.”

       Personally, I prefer the designation “Flying Yoga” not only because I have never officially been trained in “Acro,” but because it sounds too much like we’re doing circus tricks. This isn’t any put down of the founders of Acro, Jason Nemer and Jenny Klein. No, they are well grounded in the yoga tradition, and they also acknowledge that when we are doing any kind of yoga, it’s really the inner work being done — the qualities of courage, trust, perserverance, patience, listening, etc. — that are really the most important, not necessarily what we can do. On the other hand, when we see a pose artfully done, or a move gracefully executed, we generally give props because we know what it must have taken to get there (however many incarnations — in this lifetime, or ones before!)

      I prefer the term “Flying Yoga” because we do really fly high when we do this kind of yoga, it’s so much fun, and even blissful (more below on this). On the other hand, perhaps the designation “Roots & Wings” would be even better, to highlight the fact that in order for one person to fly (the “Flyer”), the person who is assisting (the “Base”) must be really very well grounded to make it all possible! As it is with every “flight” we take in life — we won’t be airborne for long if we don’t have a stable foundation to support it!

My Flying Yoga Story

    Although I have been practicing yoga for the past 19 years, admittedly it is really only in the last 5 that I have gotten into Flying Yoga. Early on, I found a great partner in crime, my friend Ali Gardella (who also assists with our Yoga Teacher Trainings). People see us now and are fairly amazed at what we can do, but little do they know that Ali had to take many a one for the team to get to where we are now. Yes, she ate sand numerous times on the beach here in Naples as we were learning how to do our flying stunts. Ali, a grandmother of 2 has been a super flying trooper, always ready to try new things and No one would ever suspect that she is a grandmother!

     Ali also knows how fun it is! And yoga of all things should have at least a little fun to balance out the discipline!

     So anyway, you can thank Ali when I take you without a hitch from “Folded Leaf” into the “Bat Pose,” or have you stand and balance on my hands, etc.

    More recently, I have begun “flying” with another truly amazing yogini, Meenakshi Angel Honig, who has been practicing and teaching yoga for the past 4 decades, currently residing at the Spirit of Aloha on Maui. Angel is an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher with so much wisdom to share! It is a great honor for me to work together with her and we are really so blessed to have her joining us on the teaching staff of our yoga program at the Spirit of Aloha.

     I would also like to highlight one intriguing element in our working together: The fact that Angel actually experiences Kundalini Shakti through practicing Flying Yoga, which is why she calls it “The Yoga of Bliss.” She feels it has to do with the energy being released by pressure of the Base’s feet against the sacrum. [This makes perfect sense to me. Yesterday at Earth Day I spoke with a woman who believes her recent spontaneous kundalini awakening was directly related to her hooping practice, specifically by the pressure of the hoop against her sacrum.]

     Angel and I have already choreographed 2 Flying Yoga “peaces” (as Angel calls them), and I have posted the Youtube videos of these below. The first is a piece set to Josh Groban’s version of “You Raise Me Up,” which Angel chose as a perfect soundtrack for Flying Yoga.  I think you’ll agree it’s not bad at all for our first month working together, and somewhat sporadically at that:

The second “peace” Angel and I co-created is a Flying Yoga tribute to Whitney Houston, using her incredibly beautiful song from The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You.”

And here are two other “peaces” that Angel and I have created more recently for your viewing pleasure:

     I feel really good about the work that Angel and I have done together, mainly because for me it fulfills something that I have for a long time now wanted to do with my asana practice, which is to turn it into a work of art, expressing, as Rodney Yee has put it, the “Poetry of the Body.” And that is is just its outward expression, of course. Asana’s inward expression is greater awareness and self-knowledge, health, bliss, peace, freedom, and love of life. May it be so for us all!

Love, Allowah

For a nice piece on Jason & Jenny and Acro Yoga, click HERE:

aldous-huxley-doors-of-perception

Ayahuasca: The LSD of This Era

Ayahuasca: Generation X’s LSD

In the 1960s, recreational and irresponsible use of the psychedelic LSD led to the US government’s classification of it as a Schedule I drug (1966).   Up until that time, LSD has been the subject of much interest and study by scientists, artists, and musicians, who were considering its potential in medicine and the arts.

Drs. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began studying LSD after being forced to resign from Harvard in 1963. While Dr. Leary infamously became “The High Priest of LSD” and was a proponent of LSD for the rest of his life, Dr. Alpert went to India in the late Sixties, found a guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and became Baba Ram Dass.

In 1971 Alpert, now as Ram Dass, published “Be Here Now” in which he told the story of how he gave Neem Karoli Baba a very high dose of LSD and “nothing happened” — it had no visible affect on the guru. The message to the hippie baby boomers was that they no longer needed drugs to get high; yoga could do the same thing or better for them.

Be Here Now was a bestseller and a watershed moment in the Sixties countercultural movement. In reality, it was part of a shift that had already been happening since the banning of LSD, as the Beatles disillusionment with it a few years prior reflected.

Ram Dass’ book was published right around the time when the Nixon administration created the Drug Enforcement Agency and began the “War on Drugs.” As a result, the next generation, the so-called “Generation X,” grew up with many anti-drug messages such as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogan. Many of the Baby Boomers were now seeking and finding ways to get “high” without use of psychedelic substances. Some found it through running, others yoga, meditation, music and chant, biofeedback, breathwork, shamanism, and any number of “alternative” modalities.

Taking their lead, Generation X came of age in a world in which the excesses of the previous generation had been tempered by age and wisdom. In the world of yoga, a world I was introduced to in the mid-Nineties, drug use was very much frowned upon. Why would you use drugs if yoga (or another “alternative” modality) could do the same thing or better for you? This is the question most of the new gurus from the East had been asking their devotees, the largest percentage of whom were the flower children. Yoga, they taught, is about independence from any external substance, whether it take the form of a pill, a dogma, or a government.

And this was the reigning sentiment in the yoga world for at least three decades. For the most part, yogis were not drug users; it was considered a contradiction in terms, antithetical to the whole yoga ethic and ethos of declaring one’s independence from external tools and methods. I intuitively felt the truth of this from the very beginning of my encounter with yoga.

Yoga also was supposedly preparing me to be prepared for anything, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come…

Since the early nineties, the Amazonian plant medicine known as ayahuasca (also, yagé; prounced “ya-hey”) has entered the world stage like no other psychoactive substance since LSD, becoming one of the most widely discussed and even celebrated psychedelics (aka “entheogens”) of this era.   In the last decade, ayahuasca seems to be teetering on the edge of mainstream status, if not already exactly a household term, having now been featured by such major media outlets as National Geographic, CNN, NPR, and even showing up in Hollywood films such as Wanderlust and While We’re Young.

In the yoga world, of which I have been a keen observer over the last 20 years, ayahuasca has definitely made its presence known. Based on my observations, there are as many Generation X yogis now who have tried ayahuasca as not, and a good percentage of those who have partaken have done it more than once. Certainly those of the older, Baby Boomer generation that I have approached about this have had mixed views, but more often than not, they have at least been somewhat sympathetic, if not actual participants. Some highly regarded yoga professionals have confided to me that they have used the Amazonian plant medicine in the tens and even hundreds of times, and not because it didn’t work the first time.   Mind you, these are some of the biggest names in the yoga world, with a considerable influence that would be difficult to estimate. (Others, like Grammy-nominated kirtan wallah Jai Uttal, whose wife is Brazilian, told me in an interview that he has turned down the invitation to ceremony many times; it’s not his path.)

To be sure, there is still considerable tension and debate about this in the wide world of yoga, as there is in the broader society where ayahuasca and other psychoactive substances are still illegal in most places. It’s not only the legal status that has created a kind of rift in opinion; again, it’s also the ever-present question as to whether a psychoactive substance could ever be fully embraced in a community that prides itself on self-reliance and to being to large extent anti-drug.

Growing up in the era of the War on Drugs and the son of a father of the Greatest Generation who was adamantly opposed to drugs and alcohol, I steered clear of all substances for the first 35 years of my life. About 10 years ago now, I cautiously began to explore various substances of which ayahuasca was only one, but the most significant for me. What I experienced from it was remarkable and very useful on my life’s journey. It was also somewhat terrifying and left me with a new set of questions and issues with which to confront.

My fascination led me to begin writing a book on the subject of “yoga and psychedelics,” as I continued to attend various ayahuasca ceremonies and speak with people about it, including elders and shamans. Nearly a decade later, I am about to publish my book, with the intention of inspiring greater awareness and a public dialogue on the issues involved, particularly in the yoga community. My sense is that because I equate yoga more broadly with “spirituality,” many people will find the book interesting as it touches on the most universal and fundamental issues that we all deal with, whether we do yoga or psychedelics, or not.

The book, “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics & The Quest for Enlightenment” will be available on Amazon in early 2016.

       Selected Resources

1) National Geographic Article

 2) Ayahuasca on National Public Radio:

        “Window Into the Soul”

           & UDV Controversy

 3) Lisa Ling’s CNN Report on Ayahuasca

4) New York Times Article (2015)

5) LA Weekly Report on Ayahuasca in Hollywood and Contemporary Music

 6) Article in Huffington Post on Ayahuasca as a Potential Treatment for Depression

 7) Five Ayahuasca-related documentaries worth seeing: 1) Vine of the Soul; 2) DMT: The Spirit Molecule; 3) The Sacred Science; 4) Neurons to Nirvana; 5) Metamorphosis .

 8) Ayahuasca in Hollywood movies: Wanderlust & short piece on Ayahuasca in Hollywood

9) One of the best books on ayahuasca: Jeremy Narby’s The Cosmic Serpent.

10) My own most recent piece for Reality Sandwich: Yoga, Ayahuasca, & A Course in Miracles

 Allowah is a yogi philosopher who currently resides primarily in Southwest Florida.   Over the past decade, he has written various pieces on the subject of yoga & plant sacraments (aka “psychedelics), most of which have been featured on the Reality Sandwich website.   He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Liberal Arts, and is a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. He can be contacted at allowah13@gmail.com.

north-american-tour

The Cult of the Hugging Saint Re-examined

The Cult of the Hugging Saint Re-examined:
Towards an Inner Dialogue

“People have different opinions and they have the freedom to express them. Those with sharper intellects can prove or disprove many things. However, their statements may not necessarily be the truth. The more intellectual you are, the more egoistic you are. For such a person, surrendering is not so easy. The experience of God will not become a reality unless the ego is surrendered. …If somebody claims that a Guru’s guidance is not necessary in the path to God, such a person, Amma feels, is afraid to surrender his or her ego. Or maybe they themselves crave to be a guru.”
~ Ammachi

“Do not believe something just because I tell you. Question everything.”
~The Buddha [said something like that]

This essay will attempt to clear up some confusion in regard to one of the most remarkable spiritual teachers of our time, Mata Amritanandamayi, familiarly known as “Ammachi”(aka “The Hugging Saint”). I write this partly for myself, to get my thoughts down on paper, and also for those on both sides of the growing debate/controversy surrounding who is now perhaps India’s most highly regarded living saint.

      In writing this, I do not wish to make anyone wrong, and am in fact coming from a space of some doubt and confusion myself, having now pretty thoroughly explored much of what has been said on both sides and finding there to be room for pause from all that has been written. What I do want to do is to suggest that we deeply listen to what everyone is saying rather than immediately putting the other side down, delete them from the message board, not really confront their points, or completely ignore them. I feel that most everyone, regardless of whether they take to spirituality or not, can agree that truth is best revealed through respectful and open dialogue, rather than deprecating diatribes. I would also suggest that if we are thinking or writing about these things at all, and especially if we strongly take a side, we’re most likely secretly confused and we might do well to question our own answers.

     I also feel it’s appropriate to reveal that I’m writing this at about 3 am during Devi Bhava at Ammachi’s San Ramon ashram, 2014. Earlier this evening I spent a couple of hours going through a number of the pieces written online, including the Rolling Stone exposé (from 2012), as well as Ron Rattner’s essays, Gail Tredwell’s revelations, etc. I also wrote out a lengthy question to ask Ammachi, the gist of which I will touch upon in a moment.

    The next revelation is that I wouldn’t have gotten into yoga as I did were it not for Ammachi. When I first was introduced to yoga in the mid-nineties, I met a number of gurus, swamis and yogis and Ammachi was like the gold standard for me by which I measured all the rest. Why? Well, at that time, it seemed that Ammachi had it all and was pretty much beyond reproach in my book. I couldn’t comprehend who she was and what she was doing, the superhuman energy she displayed day in and day out in selfless service to the world, hugging literally tens of thousands of people each week, with very little food and sleep, never seeming to waver or flag in her seva, her selfless service. To this day, apparently, she has never had to miss a day due to illness. That’s in 30+ years…pretty incredible, no? What’s that all about?

     If Jesus’ oft-quoted maxim “by their fruits ye shall know them” means anything, and it certainly did to me back at the beginning (and still does), Ammachi had demonstrated unequivocally that she was putting all of her life force into the service of humanity, setting up countless charitable organizations, schools, disaster relief initiatives, traveling the world tirelessly, etc.

The first thing I would point out is something I read from a devotee early on, to the effect that she thought she was such a “good person” until she met Ammachi. Meaning that being around Ammachi showed how far she had to go in terms of embodying love in every moment, as Ammachi appears to do to the nth degree. That statement stood out in particular because it was also true of my experience – I really thought I was hot stuff until meeting Ammachi. I realize that a skeptic or “ex-Amma” might jump in at this point and say, well, you are hot stuff! You are also a superstar, no different than Ammachi! You would also have her energy and love if you had all of those people adoring you, and your job was to run a multi-billion dollar business based on love. You’d have to rise to the occasion. Maybe so, yet the fact is, I am not in Ammachi’s position, nowhere close to it, and neither are her detractors.

     So the phenomenon of “sour grapes” and jealousy obviously can come into play here, and it is at this point that I feel we must deeply consider our ulterior motives in attacking Ammachi, or anyone for that matter. Is the attack (even if it is not couched in such extreme terms) really coming from a deep desire to help or save people from a brainwashing cult that abuses its members and what have you; or is it in fact coming from a desire to be seen as the hero, the whistleblower, or even the victim, because Ammachi is revered by millions and you are not? Or maybe it’s because you dropped your yoga practice and are trying to rationalize or justify it to yourself? And so on.

     Let’s not stop there, though, yet let’s also deeply and just as fairly consider the other side of the coin. What might be considered jealousy or sour grapes might in actuality be emanating from a real desire to save people from someone who has been called a “false guru,” “energy vampire,” “antichrist,” and perhaps worse. Let’s consider that maybe Ammachi is “on top” so to speak because she ruthlessly knocked out most of the competition.

     This is not an entirely hypothetical musing. The summer I met Ammachi, I also met Karunamayi, another South Indian “Amma,” who some of Ammachi’s devotees were going to see to receive darshan until Ammachi put a definite stop to that! Her followers were not going to see another Amma! She apparently even went so far as to sign her name to a document saying that if Karunamayi were allowed to even use the same venue as her, she would find somewhere else to give her programs. Then I heard that she put down Karunamayi as not the highest guru. This all shook me when I first heard about it, and started to put a crack in the picture I had of Ammachi (and ultimately not going back for 14 years). And of course, in the last 14 years or so, much more shocking allegations have come to light about the disturbing underbelly on what on the public surface looks like such an above board organization. We’re talking about physical, psychological, and sexual abuse allegations, some of them pretty much confirmed, as well as misappropriation of funds, and even intimations that Ammachi’s movement has offed people who don’t toe the party line. Pretty horrendous sounding stuff, not all of it proven, and probably much of it not true. Yet it seems that some of it is true and yet is being officially denied by Ammachi’s organization, including we must suppose, by Ammachi herself.

     Again, though, how we see all of this kind of depends on what stake we have in Ammachi being either an avatar or a fraud. If we have some stake in the former, we’ll find a way to see Ammachi as an avatar. If we are invested in the latter, we’ll have no problem showing how Ammachi is a fraud. Where does the truth lie? Perhaps, as usual, somewhere in between.

Her defenders will say things like, “Well, if she’s an avatar, then she can make it look like that to test people to look beyond the surface appearances, as well as to test the faith of her devotees. Perhaps there are really stubborn blockages there that can only be dislodged by certain shock and awe tactics, what has been termed “crazy wisdom” teachings? Perhaps her “tough love” is exactly what is needed to completely blow their mind and bring them into an enlightened state? How/who are we to judge? And every major figure is going to have their enemies and detractors, it’s just a fact of life. As far as the public denial that these things ever happened, well, there is a “greater good” being served by Ammachi’s organization running than not, and the tough karmic lessons were confined to a few close disciples – why should they be allowed to bring the whole blessed enterprise down with them? And again, who is to judge?

       That’s the defense. Now those against Ammachi will come and say that there’s a real slippery slope if we go that route because then the guru can really abuse their power and do anything they like, justifying it by saying “I’m the boss, my word is queen, and you just have to deal with it and learn your lessons,” and if they get away with it, they might abuse their power even more. Towards the end of his life, there were a number of people also trying to take down South India’s other great guru of this era, Satya Sai Baba, mainly for faking his materializations and miracles, but even more damning, for the number of reports that were being posted on the internet accusing him of pedophilia. Again, supporters said that because of who he was, he could do whatever he wanted and it was all never so he could get his jollies but to serve the greater spiritual evolution of his devotees, perhaps especially to test or reveal their level of faith and detachment. Meanwhile, his detractors again used the argument that a true guru would never commit such adharmic (non-lawful and unrighteous) for any reason, even to test their followers.

     Perhaps at this point you, like me, are sensing the limits of rational thinking here, and that if we truly honestly consider both sides of this issue, we will be left in a state of stalemate, not being able to offer a definitive 100% sure conclusion either way. And it is here that we come to what seems to be an essential part of the spiritual path, and that is what we know as “faith,” which is where reason leaves off and a humble sense of “I don’t know” begins. Yet before we leap with loveblind faith, there are certain things we can do first to help decide for ourselves which way to go…

      More than a century ago, Harvard professor William James came up with the philosophy of pragmatism, which essentially says, “What Works?” Does it work for you? Then do it! And if doesn’t work for you, then don’t! And I would add, if you see something is working for someone else, be very careful before you attempt to burst their bubble, because what they believe may be very useful to them at that moment! And that said, they also might be very grateful to you for bursting their bubble, so it can go either way (you might want to propose a “spoiler alert” first😉 Yet in the end, it’s really our choice to have our bubble burst or not – if it happens, we’ve opened ourselves and allowed it.

     The other thing I would say is that exploring other religions and paths has, for me, definitely strengthened my faith in Ammachi and what she is offering the world. For one thing, her teachings are very simple, clear, able to encapsulate the most profound and universal spiritual teachings. And they are ultimately in accord with Advaita Vedanta – the philosophy that all is One, and that we are all and have always been one with what many call God (or Spirit, Source, etc). Vedanta has been confirmed and re-affirmed not only by the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, and countless sages past and present (including from other traditions, such as Rumi, Meister Eckhart, et.), but also by other contemporary revealed scriptures such as a new favorite of mine, A Course in Miracles. Furthermore, if I had never done an ayahuasca session, I wouldn’t have been able to fully grok some of Ammachi’s teachings (if they truly are her’s, and not ghost written), such as the following:

“ Spirituality is not a journey forward, it is a journey backward. We return to our original source of existence. In that process, we have to pass through the layers of emotions and vasanas [tendencies] that have accumulated so far. That is where the pain comes from, not from outside. By going through those layers with an open attitude, we are, in fact, crossing over and transcending them, which will ultimately take us to the abode of supreme peace and bliss.”

     Actually, meditation showed me the truth of this statement early on (and I wouldn’t have really gotten as deeply into meditation were it not for teachers like Ammachi), but working with ayahuasca took it that much deeper.

So in other words, I now have for myself outside confirmation of what Ammachi is teaching, and at this moment, sitting in her presence and in this beautiful gathering, I will say that even if there are some things in Ammachi’s movement that are red flags, it yet seems wise to see things in the context of the big picture and the “spiritual fruits” that Ammachi and her followers have offered the world.

      All that said, it ultimately does come down to faith: Is Ammachi truly an Avatar, God in human form who can lead us through those deeper levels of our unconsciousness that are so difficult to access and navigate on our own; or is she actually a false guru who has come to enslave her followers (and the world, too), keeping them as far from enlightenment as possible so that she can win all the glory for herself? All I can say is, the choice is yours. My point here has mainly been to suggest that we all really examine our own motives, our own stake in all of this, and from that place of complete self-honesty and transparency, decide whatever we decide. That requires some real introspection, the hallmark of the spiritual path.

     For myself, what works for me is to remain in a position of open-endedness, and to also be primarily focused on working out my own salvation, without over-reliance on external teachers. Despite the traditional yoga teaching that one has to have a guru in order to reach enlightenment, it seems this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Even Ammachi herself has said the following:

“Amma doesn’t force anything on anyone. For those who have the unshakeable faith to see every single situation, both negative and positive, as a message from God, an external Guru is not necessary.”

Ammachi, however, goes on to ask rhetorically:

“But how many people have that determination and strength?”

Indeed, how many? Do I truly have that ability, or am I fooling myself?

Sources

1) Rolling Stone article, “Cult of the Hugging Saint.” http://www.theyogablog.com/controversial-rolling-stone-article-on-amma/ . This blog entry provides a link to the original RS article, plus the blog author’s commentary.

2) Ron Rattner, Silly Sutra Website, particularly the piece: http://sillysutras.com/other-teachers-mata-amritanandamayi-ammachi-rons-memoirs/. I first learned through a friend of Ron’s break with Ammachi; this was in the late nineties, some 15 years before he went public with his grievances.

3) Gail Tredwell. Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness. http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Hell-Memoir-Devotion-Madness/dp/0989679403

4) Official and Other Responses to the Tredwell book: https://ammascandal.wordpress.com/tag/holy-hell/

5) Amma.org. Official Ammachi website.

6) Bronte Baxter, “Blowing the Whistle”: http://brontebaxter.wordpress.com/blowing-the-whistle-chpt-9-amma-the-mother-saint-hugging-away-your-personhood/

7) Letters to the Mother: http://letterstothemother.com/tag/ex-amma/

8) Jovan Jones website: One of Ammachi’s biggest critics. I met her when she was still a devotee of Ammachi in the mid-90s. She wrote “Chasing the Avatar,” a mainly non-fiction account of her time with Ammachi.

9) Article quotations of Ammachi are from the book “From Amma’s Heart,” written and edited by Swami Amritaswarupananda.