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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

Anahata, the heart chakra. Translates to "unstruck" or "unbroken". Unfortunately, it sometimes does break......shattering into a thousand glimmering shards. They pierce our soul and we become fragile, "broken hearted." We all have had a time in our lives that strikes us here, through situations or those around us. The pain of a broken heart can suck the life out of you, just as a happy heart can radiate light to the world from within. The heart also relates to the Udana vayu, or upward moving air,  one of the five forms of Vata, that moves the spiritual energy up and awakens us.When the heart is hurt we tend to retreat, I know. I personally am going through a painful time in my life and feel like the air has been sucked out of my being. I feel powerless to change things. It hurts deeply. Closing inward. I just want surrender to the waves of sobs and let them drown me. I am on retreat this week, and the darkness, warmth of candles and cloistering soothe; like being rocked and held in the arms of the earth. I almost wish it would open and swallow me into the quiet darkness of the abyss. Sitting in safe silent reverie,I have  the realization that when we feel powerless it is really where we are at our most powerful, by surrendering, letting go. By understanding that the only way to heal anything is through the power of love. Acceptance. Love is at the heart of the matter, it is the strongest of medicines if we allow it to heal our wounds.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

America....the beautiful

America....the beautiful. Richest country. Home of the free.(Or so we are told.....). The media tells us these things, and we gobble them up. But it is not the case if you look at what is going on right under our very noses. Yes America is beautiful....purple mountains majestic. Yes, perhaps much wealthier in the pocket than many countries where the income may be just $2 a month. Free....not for all. There are those in this country that are forgotten, whether they live in the inner city slums, are homeless and sleep under the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Native American reservations of Dakota, or the rural areas on the Appalachian Trail. They are trapped in a cycle of poverty to which we close our eyes. As a culture, we tend to not see what is going on with our brothers and sisters right next to us, we are too wrapped  in the "ooh and ahh" it's all good, just keep enjoying your creature comforts mentality the media paints for us to stay asleep and  not see the bigger picture.
I recently went to Lee County Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in the entire United States to begin to set up a yoga outreach program for Go Give Yoga.   If you have never seen the Appalachias, I suggest you do. I drove, so I was able to see the mountains, valleys, and blue mist that rises up first hand. From Western Maryland on it is truly breathtaking. Some mountains are almost 3000 feet above sea level. Amazing rock formations, animals grazing on steep hills, ever twisting roads before me. Arriving as the sun was setting, one of the first things I noticed was an area of deforestation down the hill that the road cut through and smoke rising up from it. There is strip mining for coal going on, and it is setting the people up there not for the better. Mountain top removal is wreaking havoc on the natural environment. They have one of the nations highest rates of  cancer here. Runoff from the mining operations leaches into the ground  water. I was told not to drink the water, use bottle or filtered by my gracious hostess at the Cumberland Mountain Outreach. ( wait a minute, isn't this the good ole USA?) Water, water everywhere, not a drop to spare. If you do not have access to the luxury of bottled water, what do you do? Consume what may be poisoned and worry about the consequences long term later? Safe drinking water is a basic human right that we ALL take for granted. The country there between Lee and  neighboring Wolfe County is beautiful to be sure, the people gracious.   There is wildlife- bear, bobcat, copperhead, coyote.  There are also trailers, many falling in on themselves. As we drove around I questioned why there were graves on peoples property; you see  small group gravesites, well tended and loved,  frequently. Folks here are permitted to bury their loved ones this way according to local custom, and their family ties are strong.  My hostess at the Outreach took me on a tour of the high school, the drug court, and the main street. We went to the local Kiwanis club and  I spoke about the benefits of anxiety reduction and self regulation that yoga can bring to children.  There are under 2000 people living in the county seat of Beattyville, and there are not many jobs or industry. The main employers are the prison, jail, or the school.  Not a lot of choices for your future. Many, if not most are on food stamps. Lee is a dry county, which is a blessing,  as crystal methamphetamine and pain pill addiction is rampant. Drug court does a brisk business.  In the forests, marijuana is a planted cash crop. I was informed that choppers and Humvees regularly come to eradicate the harvest. Yet in the beauty of these wild forests travelers come to rock climb the spectacular gorges.  Children go home on Friday from school, where they are fed on subsidy and then  many don't eat all weekend because their parent sold their food stamps for drugs. The children at the high school appeared overweight, and lethargic; and I am sure it is not  because of affluence, but lack of a healthy diet and lifestyle, and perhaps lack of hope.
While I was there ,I met another yoga teacher, one who has a vision for this beautiful area and its people. To empower them, not maintain them. To pool community and work together for the greater good of all residents of this hidden gem. To encourage healthy lives and health care, to bring yoga into these counties to help people connect to their bodies. To be proud of their Appalachian roots, to create their own jobs,  and find a better way for themselves. She has asked for my help, and I am glad to offer any I can to the people here. Thank you for having me.
At the Outreach, there is a small store, called "Second Hand Rose", run by Miss Rose herself, a lovely elderly woman, who just adores babies. The store  donates clothing to the children for school, 3 outfits each,  and run fill a "bag for a buck" sales. At Miss Roses 'they make these very special braids of strings of different fabrics. They symbolize, "as one thread we are weak, as a group we are strong." It is something we all need to take heed to. United we must  stand.
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