Our normal daily life creates a pattern of mental focus that often takes us out of our physical, present moment reality.  Our attention goes away and in many directions, often for long periods of time.  This way of being, while it may seem necessary, productive, and even creative has many limitations.

The primary limitation is that it accentuates the mind/body disconnection- our body is doing one thing, our mind is doing many other things.  This disconnection makes us highly susceptible to physiological stress or sympathetic nervous system arousal.  That means our bodies are revving up to prepare for danger and emergency, its information is based on our conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and in most cases there is no danger- the threat and thus the stress is in fact, unnecessary.  This unconscious and unnecessary ‘’revving” of our nervous system agitates, confuses, and exhausts us creating less productivity and more vulnerability to illness and accident.

The secondary limitation of our attention moving around constantly away from the present moment, is that we do not get to live our moments fully.  We in fact feel less because our senses are not activated and our emotions are not integrated into what we are doing.  While this can be a relief sometimes to just “do” life, if this doing prevails we are more prone to over-indulge the senses- which in turn exacerbates physiological stress, and we are easily overwhelmed by our feelings.

With the Mindfulness practices offered below, you can begin to gradually shift your attention back to the present moment reality.  This simple act of harnessing your attention, will help you develop your mind body connection, reduce and manage stress, and bring more beauty and balance to your life.  With practice, you will see that learning to attend to yourself is an act of intelligence and self-worth and that you are better able to attend gracefully to all that is needed in your life.

  1. Be aware of your breath.  Simply notice.  No thinking necessary.
  2. Be aware of your body sensations.  Simply notice.  No thinking necessary.
  3. Move your body mindfully, focusing on the experience of sensation. No thinking necessary.
  4. Shake.  Rattle.  Roll.  Rub.  Hop.  Yawn.  Sigh.  Stomp- whatever connects you to your body now.
  5. Be aware of raw feeling states.  The feeling of yes.  The feeling of no. The feeling of maybe-so.
  6. It doesn’t matter what you feel.  It does matter that you notice how you are feeling.
  7. Notice your thinking, imaging, inner dialogue.  Is it true?  Is it helpful?  Is it skillful?
  8. Notice that awareness- this faculty that can notice- is bigger than thinking.
  9. Sensations, emotions, thoughts drive impulses, actions, behaviors, consequences.
  10. The future is shaped moment by moment- be intentional and notice when you’re not.
  11. No judgment necessary.

I used to teach a lot of yoga, hours every day.  I joked that I was a marathon yoga teacher.  I taught different types of yoga practices in those many hours, it wasn’t all super physical.  It was also in one facility, so I didn’t have to drive hither and yon.  I loved what I did and I made a good living in the days when yoga teaching wasn’t really a profession.

It is said you teach what you most need to learn, maybe that is true.  I guess I needed to learn how to be in my body, how to be myself and connected to something more.  I also learned a lot about teaching, communicating, relating.  For me learning is primarily about self-awareness, and secondarily about information.  This is why I teach Yoga and not history, which was incidentally what I studied as an undergraduate.

For some reason, my desire to talk about the breath today brought me back to reflecting on these early days of marathon teaching.  I taught this morning, a short 75 minute class and everyone was very focused.  It felt like what it took me many years to learn were transmitted and absorbed by everyone in the room.  It was a bit of a time warp really, it felt like we must have practiced for hours to get that deep.  At the heart of this story is the breath.

If you have practiced yoga with me, you will know there is a special way that we breathe.  This comes from my teacher Rama and is the essence of her method, which she will not name.  She calls it Yoga.  There are lots of layers to this method, but in a nutshell it is a way of using the breath to create shifts and changes in our being without activating the ego or the will.  It is a way of working within the yoga poses that takes you into deep states of meditation where subtle conflict is resolved.  It is a way of converting the oxygen we breathe into the prana or energy we need to be both transformed and to maintain our integrity.

How does all this happen through breath?  I wish I could describe it here, I actually have been trying (and editing it out) but it is really something you have to experience.  For now I will simply say what I have said billions of time by now, breathe.

Meditative Yoga Practice Series

Saturdays 9:30-4:30

Saturday, February 20 – The Fifth Chakra: Heart’s Desire

Saturday, March 26 – The 5 Flows of Prana

Saturday, April 23 – The Third Chakra: City of Gems

Saturday, May 14  – The 5 Mind States & the Breath

 

This series of practice days grows out of a desire to support our continued healing, growing, and awakening.  The beauty of Yoga is the experiential process;  this strengthens our connection to inner knowing, the inner teacher or Guru.  Longer practice sessions, well-paced and designed, are an important part of our development. These sessions are open to both new and experienced practitioners.  Each Saturday will have a similar format yet there will be distinct themes and practices.  Here are some other thoughts about how a day of practice can benefit you:

* Extended practice increases your concentration and stamina, which will translate into all you are doing.

* This meditative way of practicing will help you stay in and expand your comfort zone, you will be invigorated rather than exhausted.

* I have taught Days of Mindfulness Practice for many years and see how profoundly it affects people; there is even research that indicates that a day of meditation can affect gene response in a positive and measurable way.

* You will explore and refine your general practice, so you understand anew how Yoga works for you outside the class structure.

$100 for the day or $325 for the series.

Please contact me to register.

 

Full Day of Meditative Yoga Practice

9:30 – 4:30 $100

This is the first of what will be a series of practice days designed for students who love Meditative Yoga and want more than the 90 minute class experience. The day will include a variety of movement, breathing, sound, and meditation practices; while most practice is solo, there will be some interactive components as well. Pace & sequencing will match the natural flow of the daylight and guide you effortlessly to the deeper healing and regenerative dimensions of Yoga. In honor of the Martin Luther King holiday this month, the theme of our practice day will be ahimsā (non-violence). This is an important principle in Yoga that inspired Ghandi and then King’s civil rights philosophy’s.

Please contact me to register.

 

Vedic Astrology Highlights Fall 2015 & Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse September 27th

 

We have a Solar and Lunar Eclipse this month.  Here are the Highlights of what is UP.

The Solar Eclipse will occur later this night that I write.  It is partial and will not be visible to us in the USA.  Yet the energy of an eclipse effects the whole planet, perhaps more so where they are visible.

This occurs in the sign of Leo, in the later section of the constellation called Purva Phalguni- it is associated with wealth so there is some buzz in the astrology community about this having impact on the global economy.  Some say the wild ride the stock market just took is indicative of this energy fluctuation.  Particular effects may be felt for 6 months.

Eclipses are considered inauspicious periods to initiate new endeavors.  They are auspicious for spiritual attunement and refinement.  As we know, life often insists we do things in spite of the signs and omens.  Truly, the key is to have a daily practice that purifies your heart and mind in some way.  This is the key to weathering whatever will come.

It is also considered helpful when the solar eclipse happens before the lunar.  We always have eclipses in pairs and this time the lunar eclipse will follow and be fully visible for us in Tucson.  It is quite powerful as it is a total eclipse and the moon is close to the Earth in its orbit- this is called a super moon.  It is also interesting as it happens early in the evening- it will be fully eclipsed around 8pm Tucson time.  Easy to witness and meditate upon.

Again, there is lots of lore regarding everything and it is said that it is not good to be outside during an eclipse- that you are personally negatively affected by it.  But in this day and age, when we are disconnected from so many natural rhythms, I sense it is a remedy; a way to honor the subtle and the shadow element of life, to witness the celestial phenomenon and strengthen our commitment to light.

The lunar eclipse occurs Sunday night, September 27. It occurs in Pisces, in the section called Uttara Bhadra Pada.  It is associated with the flow of water, purification, renewal, and release from long held patterns.  It is the water that smooths the stones.  I hope you get to experience and enjoy this event in some way.

Lunar Eclipse Tucson

Mars in Leo: September 16-November 3

Mars is leaving its 2 month sojourn through the sign of Cancer, which is its sign of debility/ difficulty.

This is a big shift for Mars energy.  In anyone’s chart Mars signifies raw energy, courage, power, brothers, and land.  In the fire sign of Leo the King it regains its sense of being a spiritual warrior.  This is very significant if you are Aries or Scorpio Rising or Moon by birth. You will feel empowered again.

Sun in Virgo: September 17-October 17

The Sun will soon change signs- from Leo to Virgo.  There is quite a bit of intensity in this yearly visit as Rahu is here and Mercury turns retrograde this same day. September 22-24 are very intense Solar days.  Be extra mindful and curious.

Mercury Retrograde: September 17-October 8

Mercury is retrograde in its own sign of Virgo, that is good in ways as it spends more time in one of its places of power and amplifies all kinds of Mercury and Virgo related things:  intellectual and organizational activities, service and healing matters especially.  It backtracks right into the Sun, full combustion, September 29-30. These are days that Virgo or Mercury people could feel inspired yet depleted.  It retrogrades into Rahu October 7-8 and then goes direct.  These could be interesting days for Mercury’s mental energy- creativity and innovation abound.  But be careful with important decisions.  Rahu is a trickster energy!

 

Wisdom speaker Natasha Korshak, will be at Sacred Space with Stephen Pedone accompanying on gutiar Sunday 8/9/15 at 4:15pm

Natasha will explain to us the foundations, guide us, and help us practice Yoga Nidra also known as iRest (not an apple product). This traditional Yoga practice helps heal ills such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and PTSD. Yoga Nidra is a simple and doable meditation that reminds us of our intentions and our potential to break through limiting perceptions that generate stress and tension. Natasha’s teaching will also help us understand how this practice can be applied to daily life.

Sacred Space, 3202 E 1st Street Tucson …click for map.

Natasha Korshak is an Interfaith Contemplative Minister, Yoga Teacher, and Director of the Mindfulness Programs of Tucson.

Stephen Pedone is an aspiring accountant, musician and renaissance man.

As we approach the Winter Solstice I am reflecting on the last six months since Summer Solstice.  This is the waning phase of the year, the days growing shorter.  Traditionally, this is an auspicious time for planning and preparation.  What have you been up to? What is the theme of your past 6 months?

The Vedic understanding of time is vast and incorporates eons. Our individual lives are part of an enormous whole.  We come from the invisible womb of being and return there, again and again until the soul’s journey is complete.  We are made of stars and possess the innate intelligence of the universe.  This is a theory of course, an ancient way of framing the unknown, a poetic contemplation.  It is true that we are literally made of stars, the same substance of the universe.

Time is personified as Kala Purusha. The word Kala contains sounds related to the beginning, middle, and end of all manifested things.  Purusha is the essence of consciousness, beyond manifestation.  The implication is that we each have a time limited opportunity to express our essence.  We are all bound by time and go through cycles of time; natural, collective, and personal.

Classically, yoga practices are designed to work with natural cycles, to help us be in harmony with the deeper pulse of the planet and cosmos.  For instance, dawn and dusk are the considering the most powerful times to meditate and pray.

Collective cycles relate to our family, our peers, our place on the earth.  Consider your family’s cycles,   your generation’s expectations of life (boomers, x’s, millennials), the cycles of your neighborhood, your city, state, country?   Can you sense how this contemplation of time turns us towards the complicated subject of karma?  Why me?  Why not me?

There is a great Hindu story regarding how personal time cycles affect even the mighty Shiva.   It is believed that we all go through regular periods where the harsh gaze of Saturn tests us and transforms us.  It is called Sade Sati, the 7 ½ years of Saturn, and occurs every 23 years or so in a person’s life. When you are in Saturn’s gaze specifically, depends on personal birth factors.

The story goes that Saturn was the student of Shiva, yet still had to do his duty and cast his terrible gaze upon his guru.  Shiva tried to outwit him by submerging himself in the River Ganges for the entire 7 ½ years.
When he emerged he was delighted with his feat and cried,
“Oh Saturn! What could you do to Me?”
Saturn replied,
“You call that doing nothing to You?”

Where ever you are in regards to Saturn, in regards to your personal cycle, may the new phase of the year bring you deeper peace, greater wisdom, and fruition of your current hopes and dreams.

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays.

Natasha

 

 

There are 2 Free Mindful Meditation classes in December

December 8th we will honor the mindfulness methods of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Experiencing Mindfulness

December 15th a mindful practice related to the change of seasons.
The Fruitful Darkness: An Evening of Mindfulness Practice

All are invited to attend either or both classes:
Simply register 
No experience is necessary.

 

Ongoing Class

Meditative Yoga Sundays (Class continues uninterrupted thru the Holidays)
10 – 11:30 am at The Movement Shala 435 E. Ninth Street

Class happens every week without fail.  You never have to wonder.  On the rare occasions I am away, one of our regular students, who is also a trained teacher, subs and you get to experience someone else who appreciates meditative yoga.  Downtown is flourishing too, with great places for Sunday brunch- come to class, stay and play!  First time students are always free.
$10 class or $32 for a 4 class pass

 

Upcoming

Winter 2015 MBSR Schedule

MBSR Free Information & Introduction Session For Winter 2015 – Monday January 5th

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program MBSR Winter 2015 – Monday January 12th

Please see the full Schedule and Complete details here

Hello and Happy New Year!

Here’s the current planetary information for the next several weeks.  Please remember this is all viewed from the sidereal perspective- all planets fall back about 24 degrees from the Western astrology placements.  You’ll hear from me again in early March for great news about Jupiter!

Mars’ long transit of Virgo

If you are Virgo Ascendant or have birth planets in Virgo you may want to pay attention here.  Mars began transiting Virgo in late November and will continue along as usual until February 4 when it enters Libra.  This would be its usual transit through a sign, taking about 2 months; but in this case it will stop at 3 degrees Libra and then move retrograde back into Virgo.  Retrograde motion means that the planet appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac.  This will take Mars back into the middle of Virgo until May 20th and then it will move forward again and through leaving finally July 14th.  This means the whole first half of this year Mars is affecting this one area!

Mars in Virgo is a volatile transit in general. Virgo is the sign related to perfection, our urge for things to be done properly.  Mars here could generate an extra dose of frustration and annoyance about how things and people are performing.  Virgo is the sign of health as well, and Mars here can create health disturbances.  The volatility has to do with the fact that Virgo is a sign ruled by Mercury- which is the spark like energy of our mind.  Mars is like a flame to Mercury’s spark thus, handle with care.

I have Ketu in Virgo and have been watching as Mars just transited the exact point.  Like I tell you to do, I note the dates and watch what arises, both within my body/mind and externally.  The first day of the transit I experienced an intense confrontation with someone I work with.  Even before it started I sensed something was going off.  When it was happening I was also aware of the energy and did what I could to be clear and non-defensive.  When it was over I did a little extra to clear up the disturbance between us.  This was my way of being responsive and proactive and keeping the impact minimal.  In addition to this situation I ended up with extra responsibilities during a meditation retreat I was supposed to simply attend, and then got the dreaded chest flu and passed it on to my husband too!  The good news is that I feel like the transit really escalated my meditation experiences and I hopefully now have my immunity in place for the rest of the season!

Ok, there’s a personal story, but the thing for us to remember, is that Mars now is a warm up for Mars later this year!  If you are curious how this affects your chart feel free to contact me for a check in.

Venus Retrograde

We began the year with Venus moving retrograde back through Capricorn.  It will continue this direction all through January.  When any planet is retrograde its energy is disrupted in some way.  It will express itself in a more obvious and yet unusual manner.  *This same principle applies to Mars retrograde discussed above.   Venus’s usual energy is about enjoyment, pleasure, relationship, creative connection so we could say that while retrograde this month you might explore finding enjoyment in something unusual or that it is a good time to reconnect with something or refine something rather than seek out something new.  If you are Taurus or Libra ascendant this retrograde affects you most- things seem to be going a bit slow.

One interesting moment in the transit occurs at the end, on February 1st Venus will station, which means it stops moving backward or forward, and it will be almost exactly opposite Jupiter in Gemini.  These are both the benefic planets, related to what we desire and cherish in this life,  yet they represent different avenues for fulfillment.  Venus is more about material satisfaction, Jupiter intellectual or spiritual fulfillment.  Some astrologers say this opposition can trigger a sense of opposition in us personally regarding these paths, and also some indulgence.  Last time this transit occurred in November I was with 3 great yoga teachers- and there was some opposition going on regarding their teaching methods!  It was interesting to see it through the planetary lens and it was all fine.  Again, February 1st is the upcoming date, see what it brings you!

Also, note that Venus will move forward from there and be in some of its most auspicious zones for the next several months.  This is good news for Taurus, Libra, Capricorn, and Aquarius ascendants.

Hello and Happy Holidays,

It is getting cooler, the day shorter and the holiday season is upon us. Being part Jewish and part Catholic by upbringing, the holidays were always a bit complicated. Peter though plays a good Interfaith husband. Early in our friendship he crafted a menorah for me which we light every year much to my beloved Jewish’s grandmothers delight and his Catholic mother’s chagrin. He also enjoys Chanukah Radio (Ch 111 on SiriusXM begining on the 27th) and gives interesting Christmas gifts.

I mainly love the feeling of the season, particularly the waning of the Sun’s light and the beauty of ceremonial light. Privately we will soon light our menorah, decorate our Christmas bush, string LED lights on the house, and await Santa Pietro. Publicly I invite you to join me for the Circle of Light event December 2 and a Sunset Solstice event December 22. Meanwhile, if you want a good dose of planetary light, Jupiter is currently very bright in the early evening as the Sun sets. Jupiter in Sanskrit is called Guru the dispeller of darkness.

In my yoga practice, Fall has brought some deeper reflection.  My back has been a bit off and I have had to listen more.  Where is this coming from?  What is my body telling me?  What is the message here?  My teacher Rama has always emphasized that the back represents our unconscious, our past; and Yoga is about linking the unconscious and the conscious, the past and present have to be integrated in order to transform our future.  So in this light, I have been taking some time to feel back and process more.   I am slowly coming into a new rhythm.

Next week many of us long time Rama students will gather in Albuquerque to be with Rama and her teaching colleagues Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten.  They are pioneers in the modern development of yoga in the West and are now in their 70’s.  While they are vital, there is also a sense of their handing over the torch. In fact, the image of a torch, or flame, is one of the great images of Yoga; symbolized in the heart chakra it is the seat of our intelligence, our soul, and our connection to the eternal truths that can never be corrupted or commodified.

In the middle of the heart is a great fire (Mahan Agni) that carries all light and looks to every side. It is the first eater and dwells apportioning our food, the undecaying seer.          Narayana Sukta

 

 

 

The word synergy is a fabulous word isn’t it?   Synergy is the combination of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.  Synergy implies dynamism and flow.

The word balance is similar in meaning but we could say it has a different tone or quality- it is two or more things or components that come together and create a state of equilibrium or equipoise.  Balance is used to imply physical, mental and/or emotional stability and sound judgment.  In design, balance refers to placement of elements that produce an aesthetically pleasing, integrated sense of whole.  Balance infers steadiness and calm.

I played with these two terms and gave ideas about how to experience and accentuate them in a talk I gave in New York City several years ago when I was there representing Miraval.  Looking back over my notes of the talk today, I’m noticing how the terms bring to mind one of my teacher’s favorite statements from Patanjali, the ancient codifier or yoga philosophy.  I hear her voice now in melodic Sanskrit- “Sthira Sukham Asanam.”

“Sthira” means steady, firm, immovable.  “Sukham” means comfortable, pleasant, willing, sweet.  “Asana” means posture or attitude.  (There’s more to this word for another time)

My teacher Rama used to translate this as “Find comfort in any pose”- which was not a typical translation.  More often it is something dry and literal like, “Posture should be firm and comfortable.”

What does this have to do with Synergy and Balance?  Synergy to me feels like sukham- sweetness and flow.  Balance feels like sthira- that quality of steadiness and calm.  What does it mean in terms of practice and life?  I remember when Rama used to talk about it, it gave me a deep sense of what I was “doing” when I was doing yoga asana.  These 2 qualities equally engaged created a sort of holy state for me that has informed the way I practice and guide ever since.

She meant a lot with that statement though, more than yoga or meditation postures- she was also suggesting that we were learning how to flow with life.  To not effort, control, inflict our will upon certain situations we would find ourselves in.  That there was a way to find comfort anywhere, with anyone, under any circumstances. This was the realization of the sutra, the deepest meaning.

Consider for a moment right now, where or with whom in your life are you being too rigid or static or serious?   How might you find comfort in this pose, circumstance, relationship, situation?

One last thought here:  In Vedic Astrology the term “sthira” shows up again, it is used in reference to the signs of the zodiac that have a fixed quality:  Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius.  On the positive side “sthira”  gives stability, endurance, consistency to the matters these signs govern in your chart and on the difficult side it can cause inertia, resistance, stagnation.  In Astrology when a lot of your birth planets end up in fixed signs you learn a lot about both sides of the “sthira” equation.  I will tell you I have 5 planets in fixed signs, so I know of what I speak!