Every Sunday morning from around mid-April to early November, I pop on old brown pants, a raggedy white shirt that proclaims “I Walked the Bourbon Trail” and a black hat with RF on the front that I am pretty sure stands for Roger Federer, and head out to work in the Anahata garden. This garden is the source of produce for the Anahata Food Project, a community service project of Yoga on High that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to a local food pantry. Read More…
Chakras are energetic centers that run along the midline of the body from the base of the torso up to the crown of the head. The chakras form a system through which energy cycles. Located in the middle of the chest and the center of this energetic structure is Anahata, the heart chakra. Energy interacts with each chakra differently and as energy rolls around the heart chakra it is in the center of love.
I know my heart chakra to be functioning at its optimal performance when I experience feelings of peace and connection, when I have a sense that everything (even when I don’t judge everything to be perfect) is in its right place. It’s nice to have what’s referred to as an open heart chakra, but it isn’t always easy. When the feeling that I’ve been misunderstood or marginalized has me frothing with rage I know that my heart chakra is probably blocked. It can be fun to think about whether my chakra starts off blocked and causes my outrageous reactions or if something about the situations I react to cause my open chakra to slam shut. But all of that thinking really does is keep me from the work at hand, to find a way to open up a connection to love in the moments when I want to use all of my resources on being right. Read More…
In the womb, the heart is the first of our organs to form and be fully functional. We might consider the brain to be of most importance, and yet, in a recent study of perception, when sensing images that were rated pleasant or unpleasant, it was the heart that had sensation first, before the brain. And, when the heart is in a state of coherence, it is the heart that sends signals to the brain that trigger states of well-being.
When you experience the energy centers, it becomes easy to see the depth of importance of the heart center. We are here to do our work in the physical, the emotional and the mental arenas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras, and yet many of us have a deep longing to explore the spiritual frequencies of the 5th, 6th and 7th chakras. What role does the 4th chakra, Anahata, the heart center, play in this dance of the energy centers?
Energetically the heart center is a bridge. It is a bridge between the earthly energy centers and the spiritual ones. What we find in the heart center is love and compassion. It can start as that loving feeling you have when you feel good will towards another. It’s the sensation you have of warmth in the center of your chest when you connect with nature or when you hold an infant. And the more time you spend practicing this experience – through a practice of gratitude, through the heart openers you do in your asana practice, through noticing when you have sensations of warmth and harmony – the more you will gain a steadiness in this important bridge, a maturity of consciousness that will spill into all areas of your life.
I used to think that I would find my salvation in the energies of the spiritual chakras. At that time I didn’t realize that I was using my practices to try to escape emotional and mental pain. I had traded in meditation as a replacement for the role drugs had played in my life many years ago. There were times in yoga class that I heard the teacher speak of grounding, but from my years of experience trying to avoid the sensations of my physical, emotional and mental bodies, I had no idea what that meant. When asked to notice the sensation in my feet, I could sense nothing there. Thanks to the grace of a wise spiritual teacher, I was directed to practice being steady with the energy of the heart center – specifically that of the upper heart center, behind the collarbones. I worked on this for many months, and it has now continued on as a practice that has stayed with me for years. As many know with the Loving Kindness or Metta meditation, once we are able to connect with self-compassion, we are better able to see the suffering of all beings. Our heart grows. As my heart grew in more and more acceptance of all the places I had previously judged myself, I became gentler with myself and others. Ultimately I was then able to be with more experiences, with more sensation. Through the exercise of being with the energy of this bridge, I have been able to step into new learning that has helped me fully embody the rest of my human experience, which has led to balance throughout the energy body.
So listen…stop and listen to your heart center. Listen to the calling of your soul, that place of your knowing and remembering, to bring compassion to Self and others. Allow the harmony that this center radiates to wash over your being.
Last week, the coordinators of the Anahata Food Project had our first meeting. We are excited to order seeds and get together for the first big work party of the season (Saturday, March 30 from noon to 2). We planned what we would grow and which extra projects to do this year.
Right after that meeting I was talking to a friend who had helped us a couple of years ago and she asked if we were still involved. I felt amazed and grateful that so many of us have been working together since the beginning of the garden. And that new people join us each year to add meaning and service to their already busy lives.
Then my friend imagined the huge impact we have had on the food pantries we serve. It is true that we have grown and delivered nearly 7 tons of organic produce since we started this project. And while 14,000 pounds of produce IS a lot, I’m not really sure of the impact. We grow and offer the food freely. In one pantry they divide up whatever food we bring so that most families get something fresh—sometimes only a quart of food per family, though at the height of the season it can be much more. And just because someone takes the food home does not mean it gets eaten. Turns out there are lots of hurdles to getting fresh vegetables into the bellies of low income families. Some don’t have gas or electricity to cook with. Others don’t have pots and pans or don’t know how to cook vegetables so that they are nutritious and delicious. Some families in need can’t even get to the food pantry for lack of transportation.
Still, there are many reasons that keep me inspired in what we are doing.
- It is so good for us! Getting outside, in the fresh air, doing the physical labor with friends (or soon to be friends) is pure joy. We can see the vast width of the sky and the weather patterns moving across it. We occasionally visited by Kevin’s chickens and can see his cows from the garden. There is a pond nearby that hosts migrating birds in the spring and fall and is home to many families of birds, frogs and fish during the summer. We are surrounded by the sounds of nature which act like a healing balm to my soul.
- It’s good for the people who are using the food pantries once they get the food! People who may not have access to good quality produce get some at least occasionally.
- The sense of working on behalf of others is a powerful tonic for the heart. This is where the word Anahata comes from; it is the Sanskrit word for heart center. It’s healthy for the volunteers beyond the obvious benefits of physical exercise. The caring that we experience toward others reminds us that they are really not “the other”—they are us. We value fresh, live, organic food so we do what we can to ensure everyone can have it.
- The magic of mattering. I like to think that the people in the pantry wonder about us the way we wonder about them. Who are these people spending so much time in the dirt working so hard, going far out of their way to bring some carrots and a bag of greens to them? I hope they feel a sense that they matter to us even when we haven’t met. For me this is part of the mystery of living this life together—we are connected—sometimes we can see it and feel it personally, other times we see the evidence before us—like a bag of greens.
Volunteer Details: if you would like to work with us regularly or even occasionally please join us on Saturday, March 30, from noon to 2:00p for our first work session—a “Come to the Garden Party,” as volunteer Ann Janiak is calling it. After that our main work day will be Sunday—we’ll meet earlier in the day as the temperature rises. Later in the season we’ll add a weekday morning session (either Tuesday or Wednesday) and a Thursday evening session as well. If you would like to volunteer, send me an email and I will add you to our list and you will received occasional emails with work dates and times. Marcia@yogaonhigh.com. I’ll also send you the farm’s address and location and my cell phone number in case you get lost. We are only 15 minutes west of downtown! Like us on Facebook or check out our webpage.