Are You Looking For Me?

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Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.

My shoulder is against yours.

You will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine

rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:

not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding

around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but

vegetables.

When you really look for me, you will see me

instantly –

you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?

He is the breath inside the breath.

 

-Kabir

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Italy in India.

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Last night was one of the most delightful experiences of our Indian adventure so far.

We gathered together to celebrate the birthday of our dear friend and fellow Ashtanga yoga student Lauren.

She has an awesome yoga blog as well – check it out: Western Mind Eastern Thinking.

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L kicking back birthday-girl style

I commandeered the ship somehow and had the honor of pulling together a little party for her.

We gathered at the Paradesh Inn here in Kovalam, Kerala. Paradesh is a magical spot and and a very well-kept secret. They don’t have a website and are not easy to get in touch with, but nevertheless, the power of word of mouth keeps this lovely inn booked straight for months. And when you get the chance to spend a little time there, it’s no surprise why.

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Arriving at Paradesh is like stepping into another land. It is distinctly not Indian. The large white house sits on the edge of a hill, overlooking the ocean with a wide-angle view, perfect for watching the sunset. It is breezy, all white and blue like a house on Mykonos. The proprietors are an Italian couple who have lived in India off and on for 30 years. They are Gaudiya Vaishnavas, devotees of Radha-Krishna. They are the most welcoming and kind people.

We began our evening on the rooftop terrace, chanting the Mahamantra and other beautiful bhajans led by one of our hosts, Madhava Narsimha Das. Kirtan with friends is always a great way to start off Friday night in my opinion!

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After we sang our little hearts out, including a rendition of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (one of my all-time favorite songs), we gathered at a long table to begin our feast. Homemade, super fresh lasagna. It was such a treat!

I wish I had photos of dinner, but I was too wrapped up in the party to pull my camera out, and even if I had, the photos would have been a bit shoddy. Although we felt like we on the Mediterranean Sea, the power cuts of India were still active.

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Channeling my mother, I had everyone go around the table, one by one, and share with the group one thing for which they were grateful for about this trip in India and one thing in particular they love and admire about Lauren. You have to shower the birthday girl with love!

More courses arrived – beautiful fresh vegetarian food all made by hand by our Italian hostess. The salad with peppers, brocoli, avocado and grilled eggplant roulades was like heaven on earth after weeks of masala spiced gravies and cooked vegetables. To top it off, a birthday tiramisu and tisanes. The best part of this feast is that each dish is Lord Jagannath’s prasadam – blessed food.

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All in all, a beautiful and laughter-filled evening in honor of a dear friend.

Very grateful for these bonding experiences with our yoga community here in Kovalam.

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Love Frances

What’s Inspiring Me Today…

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Remembering Shyam Das – a true Bhakta so full of love, devotion and a real gift for sharing this with others. His kirtans at Bhakti Fest were always some of the best. He left his body in India yesterday and he will be very missed. He opened the hearts of so many people with his hilarious yet deep stories and perfectly bhav-bubbling-over kirtans. There are many beautiful words and stories floating around today about Shyam-ji. This post from Krishna Das is especially moving. Haribol!

This video of B.K.S. Iyengar as a young man practicing awe-inducing asana. I find these old silent films of the Krishnamacharya’s devoted students absolutely awesome – way more cool than the groovy tuned, scantily-clad yoga-girl videos so prevalent on the web today.

David Garrigues talking about pain and injury in Ashtanga Yoga. I needed to hear this today. My SI pain has been acting up a bit, so it’s good to have this reminder….still trying to figure out what the lesson inherent is….but no doubt about it, pain is real.

I’ve been into digging through fanciful assorted images of dancers, actresses, antique prints and other oddities on the web recently. I’ve been compiling a board on Pinterest of some of my favorites.

 

What’s been inspiring you recently?

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

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Unending Love.

This beautiful devotional poem by Rabindranath Tagore has captured my heart. It will be read aloud at our wedding ceremony next weekend, but I wanted to share it with you here today as well.

 

Unending Love.

 
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you.

The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

 

 

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Sun Salutation = The Foundation

“The Sun is the soul of the world.”

                     – Rg Veda 1.115.1

Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) forms the foundation for Ashtanga-Vinyasa yoga on a physical, devotional and energetic level.

In the lovely manual Suryanamaskara (which includes the prayer originally practiced in conjunction with the asana) published by Ashtanga Yoga New York, Guruji states,

“The Surya Namaskara…are of ancient origin and serve as the foundation stone upon which the science of yoga rests. The Surya Namaskara, or sun salutations, are necessary to the practice of yoga, as they help gather the strength of the mind in one direction and aid in the attainment of mental focus. Without bringing the mind to a state in which it can push the body through the various stages of yoga practice, says texts of old, students cannot be certain to avoid injury.

Ancient texts of Hinduism teach that salutations are dear to the sun god Surya…Surya is widely held to be the central figure in the world of health, both mental and physical, and according to the Puranas, the veneration of his stature is best achieved through the Surya Namaskara, which are believe to bestow lasting health and peace of mind upon the doer.

No asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics, and, as such, loses meaning and proves fruitless. Indeed, the Surya Namaskara should never be mistaken for mere physical exercise – for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga. Therefore, it is necessary, before beginning the sun salutations, to pray to Surya … to bestow up us the good fortune of having only good thoughts, of hearing and speaking only good words, and of attaining a sound and strong body, so that we may live a long life and, one day, achieve oneness with God.”

- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, February 2, 2004

On a purely physical level, the Surya Namaskara teaches us the necessary tools for asana practice. It is here that we learn how to link movement with breath – vinyasa. It is here that we first experience how the extension of the spine relates to the pranic pattern of the inhale. It is here that we first sense how the exhalation’s apanic movement correlates to the folding and deepening into a posture. It is here that we learn the principles of both forward-bending and back-bending. In our continued practice of Surya Namaskara, we learn the alignment, bandhas, strength, engagement and dynamism essential for all other yoga asanas (arms balances yes! and even twists too if you think about the relationship of inhale/exhale to spinal extension and flexion). It all starts and ends with Samasthitih!

Sun Salutations are not just a warm-up, they are the practice. In fact, Guruji sometimes gave just sun salutations to students, sometimes 10 A and 10 B and that’s all the asana he ever taught them because maybe that’s all they really needed to experience the benefits of yoga.

The sun is the source of all life – it is no wonder that every ancient culture worshiped the sun as a deity. Without the sun we would have no life, no heat, no food, no nothing! The sun is the ultimate giver of energy and nourishment. Honoring this source is a profound tool to help one become more in tune with nature and with one’s internal rhythms and energies.

Opening your heart to devotion and gratitude, moving with intention and honoring your foundations will clarify your purpose and relationship to yoga and to your Self.

Every sun salutation offers us the chance to experience devotion.

Each Samasthitih – stand at attention, feel the groundedness through the legs, bask in the heat of your tapas and radiance of Surya.

Each Ekam – reach up to the sun, open yourself up to it’s energy.

Each Dve – empty yourself, bow your heard in respect.

Each Trini -experience the length and vital energy through the spine, gaze up towards the light.

Each Cetwari -connect to your third-chakra, to the center of heat and power, feel your strength, focus and dynamic stillness.

Each Pancha – lift your heart and your gaze to the Sun. Throw your head back and offer yourself up.

Each Shat – bow your head, gaze to the navel, experience humility.

Each time…each movement….each breath…CONNNECT!

I encourage you, next time you stand on your mat, to think a little deeper about the symbolism and power of these humble motions and prostrations of yoga. Devotion runs deep. Tap into it.

Love Frances

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China, Cutlery, Cards and Chanting.

I’ve got weddings on the brain today! (And apparently alliteration too!)

Last night I watched Monsoon Wedding.  I can’t believe I had not seen it before.  It’s very poignant and so colorful.  I love India.

This morning I led a yoga class for a beautiful friend, her bridesmaids and her mother.  She is getting married this evening here in C-ville.  Can’t think of a more gorgeous day/place for a June wedding.  Starting off your big day with a yoga sesh is such a good idea.  I’m definitely going to have my mat handy when I wake up (solo!) in Scottsville in October before our morning ceremony.

All week I’ve been a busy little bee planning our wedding too.  Our big day is still almost four months away, but once I get on a roll it’s impossible to stop me!  I’m pretty much done with all our wedding planning.  At this point I’m just wrapping up a few loose ends (hair, day-of assistance…both of which recently fell through…oh well!).  I’m  getting more obsessed with the style details too!

One really fun project I’ve been busy with is collecting antique mismatched porcelain and silver for our reception.  I’m almost done.  We are having a small wedding, thank goodness, because it’s been a lot of work.  Luckily Virginia is a prime spot to do this.  I’ve been scouring all the antique malls and country stores in the surrounding three counties and I’ve come up with some serious treasure!  Take a peek at some of this week’s booty:

Since we are not doing a traditional registry, we will use the plates etc., from our wedding for our daily use.  We plan on keeping 15 or so place settings and then I will probably sell the rest on Ruffled’s “Recycle Your Wedding” or another site like it.  Apparently this concept is pretty popular now, but a lot of brides don’t have the luxury that I have to spend the time searching up and down for the right porcelain and silverware, so they end up buying mismatched sets online.

I’m so glad I have the freedom to do this kind of scavenging and that I live where I do.  It’s so much fun.  I’ve been finding some gorgeous old Limoges plates for $5 and less.  Score!  I’m going to miss my treasure hunting when all is said and done.

To really amp up the elegance I’m borrowing loads of beautiful silver from my parents -  serving dishes, bowls, utensils, water pitchers, vases and more.  When I gather all these pieces together I can barely stand it – it’s so darn pretty.

 

Another little wedding project that I’ve been finalizing this week is our “guest book”.  Instead of a traditional guest book I’ve gathered thirty or so blank antique postcards.  Some were from my grandmother’s house, some I found in India and others in Virginia antique malls.  In Delhi I found this old sweets tin with Rama and Sita on it too.  I’m thinking about arranging the postcards on a small table with a few pens so our guests can each write us a little note to put in the tin and then we plan on opening the box on our first anniversary as a sweet reminder of our wedding.  Yesterday I lay all the cards out to start visualizing the display:

Wedding planning has been a joy for me because it’s really such a creative process, other than the contracts and phone calls of course.

FY has been extremely supportive of my planning obsessions, other than the occasional giggles at my expense when he can’t help himself.  He gives his input when I ask for it but mostly he just lets me do my thing.  Really, all he cares about right now is when we get to do our cake tasting!

Ok, enough about weddings for now.

We are momentarily heading up to the mountains of West Virginia for a weekend gettaway with some friends from DC.  We are going to New Vrindavan for the 24 Hour Kirtan!  Basically, we will be in the middle of nowhere, getting super blissed out, basking in the bhav and chilling with a bunch of bhaktas.  Oh, and eating awesome prasadam! After that we will spend a night relaxing at my mother’s cabin on Cheat Mountain.  I’m planning on some sauna time, a long walk in the woods and a little porch yoga before returning back to the real world Monday evening.

Signing off now and closing down my computer since I will be away from the web and cell service for the next few days!  Ah, the sweet sound of radio silence….

Blessings to you.

Have a peaceful and joyful weekend,

Love Frances