Posts by: yogaonhigh

Featured Teacher: Mary Ellen Bibyk

Why do you teach?
My goal in teaching is to help people live a more easeful, healthy life.

What style do you teach?
Hatha/Vinyasa -with an eye toward improving strength, balance and flexibility.

What style influences your teaching?
No one style influences my teaching.  Currently, the biggest influences are my personal practice and the people who attend my classes.

Why do you practice?
To remain strong: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Favorite yoga pose?
I favor the combination of poses and warmups. I find a way to make each pose, each warmup compliment and support the others.

 

Inspirations?
My children, the people who attend my classes, the patients and families I’ve had the privilege to serve.

 

 

What books are you reading right now?
I admire Dan Silva’s writing style. I’ve read several of his books out of order. I’m currently rereading them in order.
I’m also rereading E. Tolle’s, A New Earth and L. Truss’, Eats Shoots & Leaves. My grammar teacher would be appalled by my wanton misuse of punctuation.

What did you want to be when you were little?
A nurse. I read every book I could find on Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. They were terribly romanticised biographies, but served to inspire me nonetheless.

What’s your favorite food?
My Hungarian grandmother’s recipes. I love to adapt and create new recipes; I’m working on making healthier versions of her delightful dishes.

Your favorite item of clothing?
Given the current season, scarves. I can knit one up on a whim, thanks to my generous yarn stash.

What is you favorite TV show?
Maybe LOST, until the writers got -- lost. The characters were wonderfully fun.
Firefly/Serenity
are entertaining distractions and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, which I initially discovered on-line during the writers strike.

Favorite quote?

“I know it’s hard to be reconciled
not everything is exactly the way it ought to be
but please turn around and step into the future
leave memories behind
enter the land of hope”
-- Zhigniew Herbert

What’s on your playlist right now?
One Republic -- really, anything that Ryan Tedder has had a hand in.

Do you own any animals?
One mutt, a rescue. She is intelligent and playful, with a dash of crazy.

We recently lost our beloved cat to cancer. She was a gentle, loving soul and a wonderful snuggle buddy. I miss her very much.

 

 What’s your nickname?
My very best childhood friend called me ‘Ellie Mae’. She and her lovely family lit up my life during some dark times.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
I would simply use my initials ‘M.E.‘, pronounced ‘Emmy’.
‘Mary Ellen’ is such a cumbersome mouthful.

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How Katherine Framed Questions

By Linda Oshins

The many, many people who knew, loved and were helped through troubled times by Katherine Dufrane have been thinking about her and doing various things to honor her memory since she died a few weeks ago. I place a lighted candle and stick of incense beside a fresh flower, sit down and ask for the lessons she taught me to come to mind, and for me to embody them. This is a way of remembering her. One of the central, critical lessons she taught me was to question openly, letting the answer come to me, rather than trying to figure out the answer, usually by rejecting some aspect of myself or another person.

She was the first to introduce me to the idea of non-doer-ship. Non-doer-ship includes staying clearly within another’s process without co-opting it by introducing your own history into the discussion (for example, “My mother has died, too”); or trying to “fix” the other person’s problem for them (advice giving); or simply shying away from another’s anguished emotional or mental state. It sounds simple, but is really difficult to do. She taught us to be with someone else by asking questions that elicit a metaphorical narrative and experience in them during a Reiki session. Or we could use this same process on ourselves.

Katherine said the essential question is “What is it like?” This is a very open-ended question without any hint of judgment—an invitation to open any door. In our healing group, this was an invitation to locate a sensation in the body and explore it. For example, if I was fearful I would find the sensation of fear in the body and go from there. In exploring a physical sensation, I got to know it and develop a metaphor or narrative that brought it to life. I could look squarely at it and let thoughts, images and memories freely flow until fear was familiar. If I needed a framework to begin my exploration she might ask, “Does it have a shape? A texture? Is it inside you our outside you or both?”

In terms of working with the developing metaphor, she would ask, “When it’s like that… is there anything more about it? When it’s like that…is there anything else for me to know about this?” One of the most comforting things she would say during a session is, “Take all the time you need.” She said this allows time for the shifts in a person’s perception and reality to happen at the cellular level.

Many people have taught me, in different “listening” systems and healing techniques, to repeat a person’s words to them in order for them to hear what they have just said clearly and to let them know that I have heard them clearly too. Katherine called this “blessing the process,” using a person’s own words to create the next question. “When it’s like this (repeating person’s words here)… is there anything else?”

This type of language is the deepest kind of support, a deep respect and reverence for a person as they are in this moment and their own process. It is not a matter of semantics but of the deepest truth.

These are her principles for asking questions of someone else or of yourself—

· Clear all judgments out of a question

· Use open-ended questions that say exactly what you want to know

· No yes-or-no questions or questions where the answer is implied

· Make sure the question respects what is; it can allow for change but does not require it

· The question should bring loving awareness to what is true now

· Allow words to rearrange themselves so that the question feels true to the questioner

· Choose deep issues that seem unknowable

· Include the phrase, “what am I ready to know about…” to permit conscious boundaries; there is a difference between wanting to know and being ready to know or see

· Honor fear; force nothing

· Find the question that has the most juice or energy around it

For years we met to give Reiki to each other and receive it in turn, querying our unconscious, seeming to tap into a pool of wisdom beyond the workings of our limited minds—a place where Katherine was at home. We would take a question vital to one of us or to the group as a whole and spend time with it. We understood that the juice was in the question, not the answer, and that the trip was much more exciting than the destination. Finally, that there was no destination. We would never “understand”. That released us from being right or wrong and left us squarely in the mystery of life and death, just asking questions. What a gift!

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Inhale, Exhale, Pause

By Marcia Miller

Inhale, exhale, pause, inhale, exhale, pause

Can you observe and feel two cycles of your own breath, noticing each of these elements, before reading further? No need to change any of it—just be with your breath however it is.

I’m just back from teaching a retreat in Belize with students from all over the US and Canada, including of course some from our YOHI community. Inhale, exhale, pause turned out to be one of the main themes for our week together and to be a very useful theme to me personally during experiences out of class as well.

In our first class together we met in an outdoor palapa.

All of us had traveled 12 hours or so to get there and starting with a breath practice seemed like a good idea. The next morning we met at 6:30a to experience a mist-enshrouded class. Because we were in the Macal river valley with tall mountains on either side of us, the mist gradually rose so that by the end of the class the tropical sun had risen above the mountain top and we were bathed in light. Inhale, exhale, pause seemed to honor this whole experience. Inhale—take in the gift of the breath right now in this moment; exhale—let go of that which is no longer needed; pause—feel the refreshment, the awe and the integration of this moment.

I love these pauses. A pause is not a “hold.” which implies effort or tension of some kind to keep the breath out when it would prefer to come in. It is an opening into spaciousness that can be the briefest of moments or a luxuriously intimate dip into eternity—the mind quiet, the mouth and nose relaxed as if I just smelled a fragrance at once mysterious and delicious. These pauses, however subtle, give us a chance to stop and see the effects of what just came before, whether it be a yoga pose or a climb up a mountain. These days we seem to move so quickly, even in yoga class, that I relish these simple moments of noticing the effects of my actions, my thoughts, my heart. Inhale, exhale, pause has a rhythm that seems natural and is enhanced by being in a jungle or by the beach as we were last week. All of life is both movement and stillness and it is not always possible to see clearly how each aspect relates to the other. Even as the inhalation is mostly nourishing, it can also be deeply quiet and receptive. The exhalation can be more active and is also a time of deeper absorption for all that was just inhaled. The pause is a time to be with the mystery, the koan, of all of it.

As we continued through our week I remembered this theme many times when I was not in class and experienced many moments of awe and beauty, and a few of fear and confusion.

Early in our trip we visited nearby Mayan ruins. The whole area felt sacred. As I paused on purpose I felt tingling all over my skin and the hairs stood up on my arms. It felt delicious and holy, and I might have missed that feeling if I had not paused. As we climbed the ruins our talented guide of Mayan descent, steeped us in stories of Mayan civilization. These were the stones and stories of his people, and we were captivated by his presence.

And at the same time, my body was terrified of being on narrow ledges up that high. I could hardly breathe and my belly tightened and clenched with fear. “Get out of here now!” it kept saying. But to “get out of here” I had to go down tiny stairs, at times with nothing to hold onto—not a great resolution to this fearful experience. I remained on the ledge, as far away from the edge as possible and stayed with myself. Inhale, exhale, pause. I felt the sensations of fear in my body and continued to breathe my mantra of the week. I’d love to say that the breathing practice completely calmed my fear and that I was able to dance my way down the stairs. Not so. But the gift of the breath offered me a way of being with myself as I was fearful and that felt huge. When I noticed judgments arise, wondering what was wrong with me, asking how I can call myself a yoga teacher if I have this much fear, I would return to my breath with gentleness and compassion. I don’t know why I am afraid of heights but I am, and yet I was able to see the site and sort of enjoy myself. By staying with my fear that day, I have the sense that I might be a bit less afraid another time. Somehow, I trust myself more. And I was able to laugh at myself as I sat on my butt and went down the stairs that way!

As we went through the week, there were so many moments of awe, of learning about the natural world we were a part of and a few other moments of discomfort but inhale, exhale, pause was with me. I paused to see a red-rumped tarantula that was coaxed out of its hole by our fearless guide. I stood atop a mountain, again with a quivering belly, to see the entire river valley laid out before me.

 

I saw a rare basilisk lizard that rested so peacefully on our guide’s arm that we all got to take pictures. I saw thousands of stars and the sweep of the Milky Way that are not visible where I live. I saw and heard Howler Monkeys with their call that sounds like ujjayi breath gone evil. I saw a pelican land on the ocean less than 10 feet from me and frigates floated overhead as we practiced yoga. While snorkeling, among dozens of miraculous sights, I saw a Spotted Eagle Ray that looked like it was slowly flying under water and a tiny juvenile damsel fish that looked like sparkling stars in a deep blue night. Because of our practice of inhale, exhale, pause in class and in my own personal practice over the years, I could remember to take the time to be with all the beauty that I saw.

Inhale, exhale, pause.

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Featured Teacher: Ambre Emory-Maier

Why do you practice?   I practice to feel in touch with my true self, for the physical and emotional benefits and the enjoyment of moving.

Why do you teach?   Teaching is the act of sharing yourself and your gift’s from God with others. I teach to learn and be of service.

Inspirations?   The great saints, my family and the many people and students I come into contact with during my life.

Who have you trained with?  Many fabulous and wise teachers from the dance and somatics field.  Yogis-Marcia Miller, Linda OshinsDoug Keller, Swami Ramananda, Martha Marcom, Gail Sky among others.

What style do you teach?  Hatha, Vinyasa and Restorative and I have been known to teach Ashtanga in a pinch!

What’s your favorite food?   I love cookies, fruit, cheese, cucumber salad and hummus.

What’s your nickname? As many of them as you care to share.   Ruby  or Chief (given to me by my dance students from long ago).

Do you own any animals?  Yes--two dogs-pit bulls-Karma and Margie.  Would love to have more animals but we do not have the room. I have an adopted turkey in Western New York on a farm that rescues farm animals called Cracker Box Palace. I went to high school with one of its founders.

What’s on your playlist right now?   Christmas Music, R & B and Big Band.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory A block.

What style influences your teaching?   I come from a dance background so much of my classes are filled with movement or vinyasa type flow. Since I started off as an Ashtangi-I have a tendency to structure my classes similar to the Primary Series format. However, I add in somatic and physical therapy exercises work depending on the theme of the class. I also love to offer restoratives and chanting to my students.

Favorite yoga pose?   Right now, Gomukasana-Cow-faced pose.  Great hip and shoulder opener.

What is your favorite TV show of all time?   I cannot say I have a favorite but I loved Bewitched, Scooby Doo and I Dream of Jeanie as a child.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?   I am okay with my name but I probably would have chosen the more traditional spelling.  Thanks Mom!

Your favorite item of clothing?   I love fuzzy socks and dresses. Dressing up is fun but I do not do it much.

What did you want to be when you were little?  A veterinarian and a TV star.  I aspired to be on the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?   I love going to the Keys-Key Colony Beach or traveling overseas.

What word describes you best?  Can any one word describe someone?

What drives you every day?  To live my life well as it is a gift and to try and be of service in some way to others.

Whom do you admire?   My husband, my teachers, my mother and fabulous friends

What is your mission?  Same thing that drives me every day plus what is on the to-do list.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?  I have been shown innumerable kindness in my life.

Fun fact about you?  I have sailed across Lake Ontario to Canada many times

What books are you reading right now?   The Hobbit--it is the 75th anniversary of the book. The Life of Abraham.

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All The Space You Need

By Angie Hay

Years ago I came across this quote from supermodel Cindy Crawford: “They were doing a full back shot of me in a swimsuit and I thought, “Oh my God, I have to be so brave.” See, every woman hates herself from behind.”

I was recently reminded of this arguable statement when I received an invitation from my colleague to be photographed doing yoga for the studio’s new promotional materials. The instructions specified that one’s hair should be neat, and included hopes that clothing for the shoot would be provided by a fancy national yoga gear chain known for their behind-flattering pants.

My brain, known for occasional moments of cruelty, instantly flooded me with images of my out-of-control dreads, my big butt, and the package of vegan cookies I ate almost entirely by myself the week before. They sent this to everyone, my brain said, but clearly they didn’t mean you. I mean, let’s be realistic.

Oh. Right. You’re probably right.

I took my first yoga class when I was twenty-one through Gahanna Parks & Rec. One day, unannounced, a guy from the local free paper showed up asking to photograph our class. The other yogis refused, but I was feeling fearless and said yes. In class I felt like a gazelle, like a water lily, like the Grand Canyon, and it was new feeling for me. Why not capture it in pictures? I practiced like he was shooting a feature and waited anxiously for the paper to come out. The image that made it to the cover was my face in profile in Trikonasana. My round cheeks. My soft neck. Me, just me. Not the yoga model I expected to see. My face was as serene as a bonsai tree, but it was difficult to see that through my disappointment. I didn’t even save a copy, not one.

These are the facts: there has never been a body shaped like mine on the cover of Yoga Journal. Lululemon’s snazzy yoga gear isn’t made in my size. They don’t look at me and see a yogi. But, miraculously, I do. Almost every hour of the day, almost every day of the week. When seeing myself as a beautiful and valuable person is the hardest thing I have to do all day, I stay in the fight. But not in that particular moment when I was invited to have my picture taken. In that instant, it was a fight I couldn’t win. It was bravery I didn’t have.

As a fat lady, professions other than belly dancer and yoga teacher might have made more sense. Maybe there are jobs where a big gal is just the thing. I worked in a café for a year where the boxy men’s chef coat I had to wear because the ladies sizes didn’t fit made my eyes sting with tears. For two years I sat in a basement office where all anyone talked about was how few calories they allowed into their bellies. The truth is that there are no safe havens for fatness, not yet. So I take my body to the dance floor and the yoga mat, the places it feels best in the whole world.

This is the type of bravery I do have. To stick with it. The courage to be the fattest lady in class so another woman doesn’t have to worry that it’s her. The courage to come to the mat as I am, even if I’ve never received the “yoga body” promised by the world’s ad men with the purchase of your first mat. The body I see in the mirror is a yogi’s body shaped by fifteen years of practice. A dancer’s body shaped by sixteen years of undulations and shimmies. The body of someone’s favorite aunt, someone’s beloved girlfriend, a girl who watches hours of vampire TV and eats too much ice cream, who rides her bike singing down High Street in the spring. A body created by two lineages of exceptional women who I am proud to call my ancestors. I am shaped exactly like myself. On this point I am unfalteringly, unshakably clear.

Though the yoga industry does not make space for all of us, the practice of yoga does. I believe there is a room somewhere with a vacant space that is exactly your size, waiting for you to roll out your mat. I promise to greet you there exactly as you are, with my head bowed and my palms pressed together in front of my heart.

If what we want does not exist, it becomes our responsibility to create it. Knowing this, I will put on my own clothes, and, when invited, turn to face the camera.

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Featured Teacher: Jill NielsenFarrell

Why do you practice?
To remind myself I am a spiritual being having a human experience and not the other way around.

Why do you teach?
To spread the love.

Inspirations?
Exceptional people with exceptional challenges.

Who have you trained with?
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Tej Kaur Khalsa, Jai Dev Singh and others.

What style do you teach?
Kundalini Yoga, Yo!

What’s your favorite food?
Sweet potato fries with vegan sour cream.

Do you own any animals?
A one-eyed Boston Terrier and a portly French Bulldog.

What’s on your playlist right now?
The Staple Sisters station on Pandora.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
My sheepskin, of course.

What style influences your teaching?
Chill humor and an inner awareness of the inter-connectedness of everything.

Favorite yoga pose?
Probably Ego Eradicator but it changes depending on what I’m working on.

What are you reading?
Traditional Chinese Medicine books.

Favorite quote?

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. – Lao Tzu

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Six Feet Under.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
Forest Princess

Your favorite item of clothing?
My new Yoga on High sweatshirt!

What did you want to be when you were little?
A veterinarian

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be?
A wolf

Do you dream in color?
Yes

What word describes you best?
Effervescent.

What drives you every day?
Curiosity.

Who do you admire?
Short list: My mother, Elyn Saks, Paramahansa Yogananda, Annie Lamott, Leonard Cohen.

What is your mission?
To explore my own consciousness while living with courage and grace.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
After a particularly difficult time, a friend watched my sons every Monday night for about a year so I could go to Kundalini Yoga class. It saved us.

Fun fact about you?
I can curl my tongue into a clover shape.

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Made with Love – Feel Good Food!

By Jasmine Astra-elle Grace

Have you heard of the term “made with love”?

I am sitting at the JFK airport at a little café. With few food choices at an airport I found what I thought was my best option -- a rice bowl that needed to be prepared by the deli chef. I stood at the counter for 5 minutes waiting patiently to be acknowledged while the staff member was busy doing this and that. Finally I asked if they were open for lunch. In an annoyed voice he grumbled yes. By this time more people had lined up behind me. I asked for my rice bowl and felt his increasing negativity. I thought to myself, wow, he must be having a bad day. Intent to lift the vibration and be joyful, I asked him a couple of friendly questions to make contact with him. I think he cracked a smile, but by this point I no longer wanted food the he prepared. I told him that I changed my mind and decided on the self-serve vegetarian soup. One person behind me decided to leave too.

This reminds me of something. When I was a little girl I used to make tea for my mother. She had tea in the English tradition, with milk and one sugar. It is a little bit of a science to add just the right amount of milk and sugar for the perfect taste. Sometimes, I made this for her rather reluctantly and with a bad attitude – like when your parents asked you clean your room – it was a chore. Other times I made it with love and gratitude. My mother could always tell and would smile and comment, “Oh, this is made with love”. On occasion, when I was being stroppy, she would make me go back and make it again and “with the right intention”. I was in my early teens when she would do this, but the lesson stuck. There is an energetic vibration in our emotions and actions. Our food carries this vibration too, and this vibration goes into the body. Food has prana (energy, life-force, chi) or it should! Much of the food we consume does not, but that is another topic in itself.

Have you ever noticed that when you are tired and cook the food tastes different then when you are enjoying the art of cooking? I believe being joyful and loving as you prepare and cook, your feelings go into the food and create a healthy and wholesome meal. I have gotten to a point where I know longer want to consume “dead or negative food”. I would much rather be a little hungry than eat food that does not “feel” good. More and more I am bringing my own food with me, and I have emergency snacks on hand. As we are become aware of the environmental impact of how we grow and handle food and of its nutritional value, we also need to be aware of how we prepare our food. This is catching on. Have you seen the labels that include “love” in the ingredients? I think they may be charging a dollar extra for this ingredient but I think it is a dollar I am willing to pay to continue to raise the consciousness on the planet.

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Featured Teacher: Nicole Salvo

Why do you practice? Because I am a better person when I do. The whole day is different when I start my day with my practice: I make better choices, I have more space for other people, and I am usually just plain NICER (my sister will vouch for this one;). It is the catalyst for constantly evolving who I am and what I am here to do on this earth.

Why do you teach? Because it seemed like it would the best job in the world…and I was right, it is! I love observing and being a part of people’s journeys. Yoga is a never ending lifelong undertaking that is constantly peeling back layers, so to be able to help people along their path is not only an honor but it inspires me to keep going on mine.

Inspirations? I am inspired by mom…The woman is a go-getter. Also, my friend Val introduced me to Tara Brach’s podcasts on different subjects dealing with Buddhist meditation. These usually light me up when I need a little fire.

Who have you trained with? Kathryn Budig, Max Strom, Darren Main, Noah Maze, Taylor Hunt

What style do you teach? Vinyasa Flow

What’s your favorite food? Coconuts.

What’s your nickname? As many of them as you care to share. Schmicole, NikkiCoCo, Auntie Coco (reserved for my nephew and my friend Debbie’s twin girls), Coco, Cole, Salvo, Nic…. Just about every portion of my name you can break apart.

Do you own any animals? I adore animals--I basically grew up in a miniature zoo. At the moment, I am currently only the surrogate mother of my roommate’s cat, Adagio. I will someday have a miniature pig and call it Prosciutto.

What’s on your playlist right now? At the moment Father John Misty, Garth Stevenson, M83, my best friend Gia Margaret (always!), Band of Horses, Sigur Ros, Lauryn Hill, Fleet Foxes, Brandi Carlile, Third Eye Blind, some good old Elton John…the list goes on! Constantly falling in love with music.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory? Sweat.

What style influences your teaching? Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, Kundalini,

Favorite yoga pose? Handstands & Drop backs…they taught me what it means to be present and to trust myself, and they are just plain fun. Also, I am currently in a love/hate affair with Supta Kurmasana in my Mysore practice. It’s the most challenging pose for me in the Primary Series, and although it feels near impossible for me still, I can’t wait for the day when my head just rests snugly underneath my feet.

Favorite quote?

 “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell


“Leap and the net will appear”

What is your favorite TV show of all time? I’ve somehow lived without a television for the past 6 years. However, in times of crisis I do resort to Hulu for my “New Girl” fix. I wouldn’t say it’s the best show of all time…but it gives me a good laugh!

Your favorite item of clothing? Wunder unders… my closet is a scary world of unhealthy amounts of stretchy pants.

What did you want to be when you were little? A cowgirl

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be? Why? Definitely a bird. Not sure what species, but I would love to know what it feels like to fly.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take? My trip last year to Thailand and India. I was away for about 6 months, and the experience changed my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot in my 25 years, so I always encourage people, if they have the urge, GO. There is always a way to make it happen.

What word describes you best? I needed a lifeline on this one, so I asked two friends and got the same word: Free.

What drives you every day? My practice.

Whom do you admire? My friend, Debbie. She’s a single mom, works so hard, constantly excited about life and never fails to light up a room with her energy and love.

What is your mission? To know myself completely, and to have compassion for all.
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” –Albert Einstein

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you? My sister letting me live in her house for 4 months when I returned home from traveling. She is a mom, and very particular about her space and I know she swallowed her pride many times to give me the time I needed to get back on my feet. She was also there for me in some pretty low times…I don’t know where I’d be without her!

Fun fact about you? I have really long toes.

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In Memoriam—Katherine Dufrane and her gifts to Yoga on High

Katherine Dufrane, a founder of and friend to Yoga on High, died this past week, which prompted me to think about the many profound gifts she offered to us.

Contemplation: Katherine taught us a specific contemplation practice long before Yoga on High ever existed. A small group of people including me, Linda, and Martha began working with Katherine to learn about subtle energy through reiki in 1998. Almost the first thing she taught us was a practice in which we listen to the mind, heart and intuition to see what we know about any particular question. The practice reveals very deep and complete answers, especially when practiced in a group where each person gets a bit of an answer like the light reflecting off a many sided prism, and the group’s combined insight is greater than any individual’s.

For years we did group contemplations each week as we met to practice our energy work together. Eventually, longings illuminated through our deep listening led us to start Yoga on High.

Questions: Katherine was the queen of interesting open-ended questions that could be asked and answered many times. There was no fun in finding just one answer, when there were so many ways to explore an issue. “What is the nature of healing?” “How do I receive intuitive information?” We never studied by reading someone else’s ideas, rather we asked questions and learned from our own direct experiences.

Non-Doer-ship: Katherine may have coined the term non-doer-ship as a description of our approach to energy work. She had previously trained in a system of energy healing that “did” a lot with the energy, moving it this way and that, undoing blocks and such. She found that she preferred a way that was more gentle and trusting. She believed, and taught us, that being able to sit with whatever was present in a person (maybe ourselves!) was enough. She knew that whatever wanted to heal in us often showed up with painful physical and emotional symptoms and that by staying with those symptoms and asking questions that supported a healing process, the symptoms would often transform on their own.

Clean Language: As we worked “in the energy,” meaning an altered state of consciousness brought on by practicing and receiving reiki, we learned to ask simple yet specific questions. “What is happening now?” “Where do I feel it?” “What is it like?” “Are there edges to the sensations?” I can still hear her soft, sweet, slow voice as she spoke with total interest, “And when it is JUST LIKE THIS, what is there for you to know about this?” There was never any attempt to get rid of anything or even to change any experience we had. (see non-doer-ship) Our language was free of evaluation or judgments and free of advice (the absolute hardest part for me). The total focus was on the person receiving the energy and what they were experiencing—not our ideas of what was happening, what was needed or what we thought. The absolute trust was that every person has inside them all that they need if they are present to themselves with enough acceptance and patience. And under her tutelage, we experienced the truth of that teaching over and over again until it became a part of us as well.

The Yoga on High Reiki Program: Katherine was the first director of our reiki program which started at the same time we opened the center. I credit her wisdom at the beginning for making our program as effective and rich as it has always been. All of the early partners worked closely with her as did our current Director of Reiki, Jodi Patton. We have trained many people over the years using her gentle approach.

Keith Dufrane: Can I mention her husband, Keith, here for a moment? Because of her involvement in the birth of Yoga on High, Keith did all kinds of special projects for us. He is a very handy guy and put in the mini-kitchen in the office, took backs off of folding chairs so we could do backbends through them, fixed the benches on the patio, and put rubber moldings on the bottoms of studio doors so sounds from one class would be less likely to effect another class. And much more. Thanks Keith

Presence: Katherine’s ability to stay present in the face of challenge and distress was legendary. It was safe to be crazy with her and know you would eventually return to something more like “normal.”. In her presence it was safe to feel deep wells of pain that would have been terrifying to experience alone. When she was sitting with you, you found containment, safety and often deep relief. She also loved holding space for people experiencing wild, ecstatic states and knew how to be with a person in a way that amplified those feelings and helped them to internalize and remember them. She often modeled the experience of awe and deep love of the Divine so that those around her knew it was available and knowable.

Community: Katherine was not a hierarchical teacher. Just as she was teaching us in every moment (sometimes officially as the teacher), she was also our student from time to time. She learned from everyone around her, treasuring our insights and experiences as much as her own. This made it easy to foster a community of people who all learned from each other. This has been all the more precious as we have supported her and each other during these last months of her life. We each carry treasures of wisdom from her and will now share these with each other—and with you.

Enlightenment: Katherine’s sincere wish for most or all of her adult life was to be enlightened in this lifetime. For her that meant that she wanted to be guided by and living in the Light of the Divine always. She wanted to give and receive love fully in every moment. She oriented her whole life toward fulfilling this desire and it bore fruit for her. Toward the end of her life she shone more and more like the sun, even as her body weakened. Every time I saw her I felt her inner radiance shine through in a way that made her totally beautiful. She expressed her love for each of us in clear and very personal terms. Even with people she didn’t know well, she was a vast, loving presence. In one of our last conversations I reminded her of an intention I had heard her speak about--living fully in love—and how powerful it had been for me to witness her saying it with such conviction. She gazed at me with an almost quizzical, surprised kind of look and said that yes, the fulfillment of that intention has been living in her these last weeks and months in a way that truly delighted her. It has been a gift to me and all of us who practice yoga to see such Realization modeled.

I want to be careful not to exaggerate in a way that makes you think that you could never wake up like she did. I believe Katherine’s message and her life showed us that we CAN. If she could do it, so can we. The underlying message was that we are already enlightened right now, just as we are. Please for the fun of it and the community of it, let’s awaken together.

How to Die: Her final teaching to us was how to die without resistance having lived a fulfilled life. As a friend said after her death, she had done the inner and outer work to go quickly and easily once she was done here. She left instructions for Keith and other friends and care-givers about how many things should be handled after she was gone. On a more subtle plane she had explored subtle energy states in reiki and meditation for years and had a “map” of the terrain she believed she would travel as she left her body. She took care of any details, inner and outer which might hold her back. She welcomed hidden and wounded parts of herself and wove them back into the fabric of her being with loving acceptance. She brought healing to painful relationships. Keith said she never once asked, “Why me?” but quickly relaxed into what the reality of her physical condition as her health deteriorated. As she began to truly let go, her death was faster than any of us imagined it could be. When she was done, she slipped away and was FREE.

I write this blog as a love letter of gratitude to my dear friend and teacher Katherine Dufrane. I have many other personal gifts from her, including the love of the mystic poet Hafiz and conversations and practices that were just for me. What I have listed here are a few of her gifts to all of us who practice and teach at Yoga on High. Thanks Katherine—Love and Blessings to you for all time.

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Slow Down and Eat!

by Jasmine Astra-elle Grace

Happy New Year! Linda Oshins captured Yoga on High’s year so well in her last blog. I am so happy to be part such an amazing organization, surrounded by such amazing Yogis. Life is sweet and 2012 was a great year.

As we go into 2013, I feel a strong pull towards releasing things of the past that do not serve my highest good anymore. Mindfulness and awareness are being shone directly (I am talking a commercial grade spotlight) on old habits and patterns that are no longer needed. Change is required and this is always a process. There is often some death in change. Something has to be given-up, tweaked, closed or opened in order to make way for the new. Oh, what to let go of first in 2013?

The lesson I share here is around mindfulness and slowing down while eating. Have you ever eaten something only to go back for another piece and it was all gone? You had actually eaten it and didn’t even notice. Well in my multitasking world (yes, I multi-task during eating) I have done this. In my last blog I wrote about my time in Kripalu. I mentioned I had many lessons on this transformative trip. In the early mornings at Kripalu we all eat breakfast in silence. On the first day, this was odd for me, but it forced me to bring my attention to eating. On the table they have a little informative flip chart that explains the silent breakfast something like this:

1. Think about where the food came from – farmers, truck drivers, chefs, waiters etc… and send blessings and gratitude to all those who helped serve you.

2. Eat one bite at a time. Put your knife and fork down in between each bite. Really taste the food. Eat slowly. Concentrate on the act of eating itself.

3. Notice your internal dialogue and make a choice to be present.

A simple lesson, yes. Something I already know, yes. But something I am terrible at doing. I get so engrossed in work or family activities sometimes I wish I could just take a pill and not have to eat. Other times I am so hungry because I have not eaten all day that I gobble the food up without my taste buds even having a chance to react. Such is the fast paced world we live in – often no time for digestion, integration and, often, connection. In truth, one of my worst habits is eating too fast and with no mindfulness. Yuck. How can I be a yogi and eat fast? Isn’t yoga about mindfulness and awareness in all we do on and off the mat?

Well, I have not made any new year’s resolutions but I have set an intention to be more mindful and slow down when eating. At my family dinner table I am always the first one finished. Although my husband and I set the example of saying prayers and blessings I set a terrible example for my daughter by wolfing down my food, only to get up and start doing my projects and duties. Now my personal prayer is to eat slowly and mindfully. Eating fast is a lifetime habit—a deeply grooved path. Have you ever had to change a bad habit in asana practice? The old habit is familiar and the new behavior has a weird foreign feel. You have to find comfort in the correction, do it enough times that you find a new place of ease while maintaining awareness.

It helps me to release non-serving habits by knowing the benefits of choosing a new direction:

1. Lose weight: eating more slowly allows your brain to register that you are full so you eat fewer calories.

2. Taste and enjoy your food: actually tasting your food helps digestion and releases endorphins. Eating small amounts of treats (dark chocolate, gourmet pizza, Jenni’s ice cream) can be easily handled by our body if we “savor the flavor”.

3. Better digestion: digestion starts in the mouth with your taste buds and chewing. Eating slowly supports digestion right from the beginning.

4. Develop mindfulness and lessen stress: make eating a mindfulness practice and see how this reduces stress in your body and lifestyle.

5. Support local food growers: what we eat and where we buy our food fuels the market. We need to be conscious consumers. If we don’t buy something, eventually it will no longer be sold.

Is anyone up for trying this with me this year? Oh, and if you see me eating fast, please nudge me – it is like breaking a bad habit in asana class. You need lots of reminders.

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