Author Archives: thenamas

Laughter Yoga: A Daily Dose Feeds the Body/Mind/Soul

kids laughter, natural and therapeutic

Laughter Yoga© is relatively new. I typically turn my nose up at new-fangled yoga trends. But Laughter Yoga is therapy. Medicine. 

Skip the coffee and take your daily dose of laughter first thing in the morning. Or, take a laughter break instead of a coffee break to reenergize you. We know you should never go to bed angry. If you’re feeling resentment, hurt, or distress, laugh it off. Accept that you, and only, you can make that lemonade — or sweet dreams. 

Laughter is a natural therapeutic. Small children tend to laugh more than 100 times each day. Even babies giggle when you tickle their tummies. Kids may have a laugh attack if you tickle their feet or underarms. It is instinctive. Although the chortles can be hard to stop — they are easy to induce. Consider this: humans are the only animals that have a laughter response mechanism. Moreover, no other animal can provoke laughter in others.

The beauty of mankind. The miracles of our beings. The magic of laughter.

Laughter Yoga, Created and Prescribed by a Doctor

laughter is healthy and healing

Most of us can connect the dots between laughter and an immediate surge of good vibes. If you are down in the dumps, a funny joke or romantic comedy movie may lift your spirits. That’s because laughter releases tension and the “feel-good” hormones. Endorphins.

Those chemicals, released primarily by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, are natural opiates more powerful than morphine. As I detail in my upcoming book, one of my gurus confirms that laughter gave him the pain relief that no pharmaceutical drug could. Best of all, there are no perilous side effects. The only danger is smidgeon of embarrassment if you chuckle at the wrong time or the wrong place.

Laughter Clubs are a safe space. Laugh as loudly as you like. If you have a crazy cackle? Even better. You will contribute to the merriment of the other participants.

Laughter Clubs first began in 1995. A physician in Mumbai, Dr. Madan Kataria, was researching the health benefits of unbridled laughter. So impressed by the indicated outcomes, he gathered people in a park for a daily dose of laughter. Soon after, his yogi wife added breathing techniques from pranayama to boost the benefits. The result: Laughter Yoga.

Benefits of Laughing

laughter brings joy and merriment.

There are so many reasons to try Laughter Yoga. Here are a few:

  • Just 20 minutes of laughter brings about a wide range of physiological benefits. 
  • Don’t tell Arnold Schwarzenegger, but laughter tones your belly muscles. But if you’d rather do a hundred sit ups a day, be my guest. 
  • Loud and deep bursts of laughing flushes the lungs. Or, you can climb Mount Everest to give your lungs a workout. 
  • Hearty laughter increases the levels of infection-fighting immunoglobulin. With no injections.
  • Spurts of laughter ramp up antibodies in the blood stream. That produces a positive effect on the white blood cells that kick in to fight infections like Kung Fu Fighting. 
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a deep cleanse for the lymph system.
  • Just 20 minutes of hearty laughter gives you the same cardiopulmonary workout as one hour on the rowing machine. If I had to row on a river for a full hour, I wouldn’t get too far. 
  • And of course you’ve got your feel-good hormones kicking in to play. So share some of the secret sauce with friend and family.

Free Laughter Yoga

laughter yoga is therapeutic simulated aerobic exercise

To entice people to give it a shot, I’m offering free biweekly 30-minute sessions via Zoom. Contact me for the times and Zoom access code. The first class will be at 3 p.m. CT, Tuesday, March 30. Spread the word. Tag or share with someone who needs some laughing.  Make it a “play date” and invite whomever you think can benefit to the initial session. If that time and date don’t work for you, send me a message with your preferred time-slot.

It’s easier than you think. And as always, the first try can be the hardest. So commit to two of my free Zoom sessions. Make it even better by having someone close to you in another Zoom window with you. 

Easy as Play

clown and laughter

Laughter Yoga can be done seated in front of your computer. Although I may cue you to get up and stretch. Or, shake your booty. 

There are no “poses.” But, it is an aerobic workout. That’s because of the breath work and the belly muscles constantly working. 

You do not need a mat or gym clothes. You can be barefoot, or wearing fancy cowboy boots. Just don’t tighten your heavy brass belt buckle. Loose, comfortable clothing is best. Like what I wear 24/7.

You can get a booster shot of spontaneous laughter therapy by tuning in to SNL. But Laughter Yoga is about the simulation. In other words, “fake it until you make it.” 

Laughter Yoga is playful. Get back to laughing 100 times a day. Be childlike. Lighten up. Get rid of heavy burdens. Even if for 20 minutes. It makes a big difference. 

Relive the childhood merriment. Add merriment into every day without worrying about what others think. Reconnect to your inner child. Reboot true happiness. Connect to the all-important love of self, nature, and everything around you.  

As my coach Liliana De Leo, of Living Laughter, said during a TEDx talk, “Laugh for health, laugh for healing. It’s about time we laugh, and let go more. It’s up to us to laugh bold. Laugh strong. If you get to laugh with others, hallelujah.”

drumming as therapy

Drumming as Therapy: An Eternal Vitalizing Ritual

Heal Your Emotional Pain with Drums

Drumming as therapy is an untapped drug, according to Erica Longdon in her book, “Vibrational Sound Healing.” “Drum therapy has successfully been used with patients and others suffering from emotional traumas including post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, drumming promotes the production of endorphins, the body’s own morphine-like pain killers, and can thereby help to control emotional pain. Furthermore, group drumming and drum therapy is currently being used to treat people with brain injuries, physical injuries, arthritis, addictions, and more.”

“Drum therapy has successfully been used with patients and others suffering from emotional traumas including post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, drumming promotes the production of endorphins, the body’s own morphine-like pain killers, and can thereby help to control emotional pain. Furthermore, group drumming and drum therapy is currently being used to treat people with brain injuries, physical injuries, arthritis, addictions, and more.”

Just as ultrasound (diagnostic sonography) and the stethoscope are common allopathic instruments based on sound waves, drumming is a form of sound healing. 

Vibrational sound energy, Longdon says, “has been scientifically proven to have an effect on our autonomic, immune, and endocrine systems in addition to the neurotransmitters in our brain. When an organ in the body is out of harmony and not working as it should, its sound pattern will be distorted. It is in a state of disharmony or disease. The reintroduction of the right sound pattern will help it realign and return to harmony and health.”

Children’s Inner Wisdom

percussion instruments: sound therapy

Our bodies know what is good for us. But, sometimes, it’s not easy to tune in.

Before we are born, we are bathed in the music of our mother’s heartbeat. The heartbeat soothes us. The beat of the drum, when slow and rhythmical, mimics the heartbeat. The tone and steadiness remind us of the womb. This is our first sense of safety. Protection. Love. Warmth. Human contact. Life force. Our world.

From the time we are born, we want to play with sounds, beats, and movement. It is our nature. Instinctual. Once kids can stand and walk, they dance. They wiggle and jiggle their bodies. They make their own music. 

Child’s Play is Healing

Children in Africa with drums

All those things are part of child’s play. Often, when I teach kids yoga, I bring my little drums into the class and pass them around. More frequently, I encourage the kids to make their own sounds of the drum by stomping their feet and banging the floor with their hands. The original instruments were simply made out of materials that were everywhere. Still today, there are workshops where you can learn to make drums. Far simpler than the production of a piano.

I am not a trained musician, but I view percussive instruments as second nature. That is why I bring them into my kids’ classes. Kids have fewer inhibitions than adults. They are not concerned about playing music “right” or “wrong.” They don’t care about reading music. Nor, do they care about an expensive Ludwig or Yamaha drum set. Hitting pots, pans, chairs, or non-breakable plates with sticks work just fine.

For adults that can forego self-criticism, drumming (or listening to drums) can lead to a state of bliss. No wonder drums are instrumental to many rites of passage around the world. It is an age-old tradition that Longdon says “is a natural human impulse and one that is growing in popularity.”

Beyond the Good Vibes

drumming as therapy

Sherry Scott’s ties to music are long — but drumming entered her life much later, and then, drumming as therapy. 

“I was raised in a fundamental Christian church where no instruments were allowed [in the church]. I learned four-part harmony at a young age.”

In school, she joined both band and choir, learning to play the clarinet and bass clarinet. Keen on wanting to play the guitar, she got one through trading stamps at age 12 and taught herself how to play.  

Sherry picked up her penchant for drumming after she moved to Austin, Texas. “I attended drum circles for years, and took classes [with the owner of a drum store] and then with several African drummers locally. I always loved music with complex rhythms and danced with abandon to songs with lots of rhythmic inspiration.”

She followed her heart and delved into the “Uses of Rhythm for Healing and Spiritual Practices” for her master’s thesis for St. Edward’s University. Her premise was that “rhythm, and sound, are a powerful part of life on Earth” that contribute to healing and enhanced spirituality. 

For most, a thesis is a drain on one’s time and energy. However, Sherry’s thesis sounds like it was a blast to explore. And uplifting, not overwhelming.

First off, rather than pen a zillion pages, her thesis was presented as a video so that the “readers” could experience the impact of drums. Second, she wasn’t locked up in a library or at her computer for years. She was surrounded by live drumming and the holy primordial sound of Om. Third, she was able to go to somewhat uncharted territories. There was no need for a million footnotes and annotations. Nor, did she have to review tomes of prior statistics or clinical data. Her cohorts may have been jealous of her approach and focus, but they benefited as well. Finally, she got to hang around cool people.

Drumming as Therapy: A Thesis

Traditional drumming as therapy

With a focus on drumming as therapy, she interviewed shamans, modern drummers, African drum builders, a drum shop owner and drum circle facilitator, Arthur Hull (the father of modern drum circles), and Oliver Rajamani, a musician of East Indian and Romany gypsy lineage.

Plus, she dove deeply into similar work done by Mickey Hart, of the Grateful Dead fame and read from the psychologist, Robert Friedman’s “The Healing Power of the Drum.”

“I used footage from drumming circles and special effects with a soundtrack that includes a very powerful recording of Om as a base audio track with intense African drumming overlaid. It had a profound effect on the class when presented and I was then asked to screen it in a large auditorium for campus-wide attendees. I used the largest sound system available. Many people were so intrigued that they asked me to play it a second time, while some laid on the floor, and some danced. It was quite an eye-opener for many who had never experienced anything like it.”

Sherry was not surprised by her research findings. It just confirmed what she had always sensed and felt. “My connection to rhythm gave me the feeling of being connected beyond myself, and my love of science fiction had introduced me to the Gaia principle, all things are connected. That is still my guiding spiritual principle.”

Her thesis conclusions illuminated how cultures around the world regularly use drum-based rhythm and sound in their healing methods and spiritual practices. These traditions arose instinctively and similarly across very diverse geographies. Among the drumming societies are Aboriginal cultures, Native Americans, African tribes, and even fundamental Christian groups. “They all use music/sound as ‘worship’ Sherry says.  

Read more about vibrational sound therapy and tuning forks in particular. Or, search my “Kirtan” archives for my many articles about the benefits of chanting.

First Love Yourself

First Love Yourself (FLY): My February Gifts to You

The American Heart Association dedicates February as a month to love and care for your heart health. I high five that. But, we need to love and care for our hearts from an emotional and spiritual aspect too.

Nourish Your Heart: First Love Yourself

First Love YourselfThat’s why I designed my signature First Love Yourself workshops. These therapeutic workshops are my favorites. And, they’re my treat this February. That means free to you. Last year I offered these fee-based special treats at The Namaste Getaway and at local yoga studios.

Appropriate for people of all ages, each session includes restorative heart-opening poses, poetry reading, guided meditation, and introspective exercises. I’ll treat all the participants at my BarnOm to a cacao ceremony, and music tuned for the heart chakra.

This year, I’ve adapted, as have most my clients and students. For those that want to connect via your phone, laptop, or tablet, I have three days of virtual workshops. Choose between February 8, 9, or 10. Los talleres gratuitos del día 9 de febrero se conducerán en español.

For those who prefer a beautiful drive through Texas Hill Country to Zoom talking heads, book a in-person session in lovely Wimberley. On Sunday, February 14, I’ll lead First Love Yourself workshops at my new 720-square-foot BarnOm Airbnb. With a huge door and high ceilings, the space is perfect for social distancing and air circulation. Choose between a 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. 90-minute self-care session. Para los hispanohablantes, el taller en Wimberley se ofrecerá el día 9 desde las 10:30 a.m. hasta el mediodía, con una sesión virtual a las 3 p.m

How to FLY

Bird soaring.Freedom. FlyAs mentioned in my recent FLY YouTube video, far more important than a valentine’s card, roses or candlelight dinner is to First Love Yourself.   

To me, FLY means freedom. Tenzin Rinpoche, a Tibetan Bon lama, in a talk about Dream Yoga, said freedom leads to happiness and you must feel free inside to feel contentment.

When I picture the word FLY I imagine a bird soaring, close to the heavens. Of course I also equate those three letters with getting on a plane and taking off. Traveling anywhere in the world at high speeds is an example of ultimate freedom in my mind. I consider travel, priceless.

Let Go of Your Baggage

When you get in the air and head to your intended destination, what happens with all your belongings? You pack one or two bags and leave the rest behind. At airport check-in, you say goodbye to your bags for the duration of the flight.

In other words, you LET GO OF YOUR BAGGAGE. Rid yourself of whatever is pulling you back, dragging you around, or weighing you down. Release what is not necessary, or healthy, so that you can FLY.

overcome your emotional baggage

Many pieces of baggage are heavy, and hard to let go. Maybe we can drop them on the conveyor belt or store them in the overhead compartment. But as soon as the flight is over, we get nervous if they aren’t right in front of us.

What kind of baggage is so hard to release? Low self-esteem, self-worth or self-respect. Nagging self-doubt, self-consciousness, or self-critiquing. Even worse is self-loathing. Regardless, we need to let go of all of that, and stop judging ourselves, or others. Plus, we need to ignore, or disregard what others may say or think about us.  All these are requirements to FLY.

Save Your Space

Freedom. First Love Yourself, FLY.

Did I mention these FLY workskops are FREE? My gift to you. I’ll be happy to accept donations. But, 100 percent of the collections will go to RAICES, HIAS, or SPLC. These are three non-profits I support. They each work to combat racism, prejudice, and injustices against people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or country of origin. Regardless of if you attend one of my workshops, I encourage you to check out these organizations, and contribute directly.

To reserve your spot in any of the above sessions, or to schedule a private, contact Deborah ASAP.

 

 

 

 

tuning forks, a pythagorean healing technique

Tuning Forks: A Pythagorean Sound Healing Therapy

It should be no surprise that I am a major proponent of complementary and alternative medicine treatments (CAM). To me, they are neither complementary nor alternative. Most often, they are my first choice. As a holistic coach, trained in many modalities, one technique intrigues me: tuning forks.

I experienced an acupuncture session with forks. Only once. Maladies troubling me for many months disappeared after one treatment. I cannot prove that the outcome was from the forks. But, I give the tuning forks the high five.

Getting Back in Tune

acupuncture

My last trip to India got me out of whack. We are not talking about a virus I caught, or bad food I ate. An unhealthy travel schedule turned my dinacharya (daily routine) upside down. Even though I trek the world without losing grip on my dinacharya, this trip tossed my routine into a Vitamix. As a result, my nervous system (and vata constitution) were scrambled and fried.

I’m not a travel wimp. I have walked cobblestone streets in Italy for ten hours a day. In California, I have enjoyed strenuous yoga practices in the 100 degree heat from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When I’m in Latin America, I have climbed volcanos. On transatlantic flights, I may lose a night’s sleep, but and ready to put in a full day of work when I land.  

But something went haywire in India. From those first inklings of something “off,” I tried to level out the imbalances. I was first in line, before opening hours, at an Ayurvedic clinic. The doctor concurred with my self-diagnosis. He prescribed a handful of herbal remedies and daily head and body massage therapy. 

blood pressure cuff

That helped. But the scale continued to weigh on the side of internal disorder. I skipped my travel group’s farewell dinner to bury myself under the covers at 6 p.m. — an anomaly for me. The next day, starting my solo journey, I made a beeline for an Ayurvedic pharmacy. Every night, I was resting in bed by 7. My super strong energetic self was missing. For many months.

Back home, I rested in bed every day. I felt as if I had mononucleosis. But, when I had mono in college, I felt A-O-K.

I couldn’t get my groove back. I had no strength. After stooping down to move my welcome mat, my blood pressure plunged to 60/40. My heart was racing just from moving a planter.

Finally, at the urging of my medical practitioner partner, I went for lab work. A TB test. Chest X-ray. Lung MRIs. Complete blood work and adrenal fatigue test. The results were as expected. Normal. Yet, I felt so un-normal — until my acupuncture session with the tuning forks. It was as if I was pushing a boulder, inch by inch. The needles and forks gave me strength to propel that heavy rock up and over the hill.  

Everything in the Universe Has a Vibration

tuning forks for healing therapy

Erica Longdon is a U.K.-based meta-physician with a passion for tuning forks. Her new book, “Vibrational Sound Healing: Take Your Sonic Vitamins with Tuning Forks, Singing Bowls, Chakra Chants, Angelic Vibrations, and Other Sound Therapies,” spells out the benefits of forks.  

Erica incorporates tuning forks in massage therapy and reiki. She finds these body tuners are an excellent tool to release tense muscle tissue. Not surprising if you consider that sonar waves can break up kidney or gall stones, dental plaque, and assist with cataract surgery.

Additionally, she points out that “sound healing works on the principle that everything in our universe is energy that has a vibration. Sound has been scientifically proven to have an effect on our autonomic, immune, and endocrine systems in addition to the neurotransmitters in our brain. When an organ in the body is out of harmony and not working as it should, its sound pattern will be distorted. It is in a state of disharmony or disease. The reintroduction of the right sound pattern will help it realign and return to harmony and health.” 

Divine Mathematics

Pythagoras and tuning foks

Long before people were eating with forks and knives, they were tuning with forks. Erica says there are images of tuning forks on ancient Egyptian carvings and that tuning to heal dates back to the time of Pythagoras, around 500 BCE. The Greek philosopher and mathematician discovered the Pythagorean theorem, the Theory of Proportions, the sphericity of the Earth, and Pythagorean tuning.

According to Erica, the original tuning forks were likely made using the Pythagorean frequencies of 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512 Hertz (Hz). Those frequencies are aligned with the Schumann resonances (SR). Erica describes SR as the “vibrational soup in which we live and without which we cannot thrive.” Schumann resonances are the frequency of our planet and recognized by rocket scientists. 

For example, the NASA.gov web site states, “This resonance provides a useful tool to analyze Earth’s weather, its electric environment, and to even help determine what types of atoms and molecules exist in Earth’s atmosphere…scientists have discovered that variations in the resonances correspond to changes in the seasons, solar activity, activity in Earth’s magnetic environment, in water aerosols in the atmosphere, and other Earth-bound phenomena.”

Setting the Scales

a set of tuning forks for healing

Today, tuning forks are set to multiple frequencies to impact different chakras or auric levels. Some healing practitioners use the Solfeggio range of nine forks (which includes 528 Hz). Solfeggio notes are similar to those in “The Sound of Music’s” Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. 

The Solfeggio scale is symbolic as the frequencies relate to numerology from the bible’s “Book of Numbers.” Erica says the lower two frequencies “impact deep emotional wounds which may, or may not, present as physical pain. The next three forks prepare a fresh vibrational field for the body, including the 528 Hz fork which can reset DNA, and thereafter, the forks lift the being into greater harmony in all relationships with life and spiritual growth.”

She typically works with forks within one scale (Pythagorean vs Solfeggio) during each session. She says the Pythagorean scale is especially beneficial for physical symptoms, and the Solfeggio for mental and emotional reset.  

When I lead my First Love Yourself workshops, I incorporate 528 Hz music from the Solfeggio scale to open the heart chakra. On the other hand, I choose 432 Hz (a Pythagorean frequency) for deeper relaxation restorative yoga sessions. 

High vibrations = Greater love

piano keys and the solfeggio and pythagorean scales

According to Erica, 432 Hz is the preferred frequency for sound healing — and symphonic music. Beethoven was a fan of 432 Hz. Usually, the Stradivarius is set to 432 Hz. That places the middle C on a piano at 256 Hz. 

“432 Hz is the original and more natural tuning for musical instruments. When a musician talks of ‘being in tune’ they are talking about a standardized note,” Erica says. For some reason, the A nowadays is usually set to 440 Hz versus 432 Hz. “The standardization happened in relatively recent times. There are opinions and conspiracy theories surrounding this event. Whatever the truth, 432 Hz is much kinder to a singer’s voice.”

Plus, sound therapy is kinder to your body, mind, and soul than many other forms of therapy.  “Sound is a healing gift, present in every moment, freely available for all to use. Sonic vitamins are an often inexpensive and easy way to incorporate the healing benefits of sound and vibration into your daily life,” Erica says.

TheBarnOm at The Namaste Getaway perfect for 2020 introspection

2020 Introspection: Find Your Blessings

It’s been nine months now, and that has brought great pain for many. But I choose to find the positive through 2020 introspection.

The new Coronavirus normal has set in. In reality, it doesn’t even seem like quarantine anymore. I go to the store. Once in a blue moon, I go to the drive-through of my favorite vegan place. I see my daughter for holidays and birthdays — but don’t hug her. Bottom line: I think I’ve adapted, and even relished much about the new normal, except for one thing. Travel.

This is the longest I’ve been in once place. I’ve been traveling since I can remember. As a kid we took long road trips every other year, from Chicago to Tucson to visit our grandparents. When not headed southwest in a cramped car we took shorter drive vacations throughout the midwest. When I was 16, I braved my first solo trip beyond our borders. As a result, my life never went back to normal.

I consider myself a world traveler comfortable pretty much anywhere, alone. The anthropologist and journalist in me prefers to avoid looking and acting like a tourist, in favor of staying and hanging out off the beaten path. 

Appreciate The Warmth of the Cabin vs. Cabin Fever

Interestingly enough, while cabin fever hit some — like a block — during these nine months of Coronavirus, I’ve enjoyed being the home body I never was. 

If you’d asked me in early March, I would have said I couldn’t imagine not even driving 25 minutes to the town where I was working, shopping, and hanging out three to four days a week. In these last nine months, I have ventured out to the next towns —in both directions — but rarely. My biggest getaways are 45-minute drives in to Austin to peruse the bookstores, food co-ops, and visit my daughter. Although I lived in San Antonio for 21 years, I have only driven once to the Alamo City since March. That was for a socially distanced new moon ceremony hosted and coordinated by one of my dear friends and gurus.

My sister-in-law in South America used to say I had patitas calientes. Meaning my feet were always moving (or longing to get moving). Even a few days after my C-section I walked to the bakery nearby to the shock of my mom. 2020 introspection tells me that sometimes it’s better to bake your own bread, literally and figuratively.

Enjoy the Little Things That Spark Joy

For the first few months of self-isolation, rather than feeling trapped in quarantine, I enjoyed each day. I walked around my neighborhood, daily, to take in beautiful views of hills and wildflowers.   

Since March, I’ve reconnected on a regular basis with my grade school besties in Seattle, Chicago, and Jerusalem via Zoom. I coordinated several large group family video chats, and have called my closest friends far more frequently than prior to Covid. 2020 introspection tells me that the most valuable things in life are your loved ones.

With a penchant for reading since I was just two years old, I’ve reverted to the real book worm that I am. Back when I worked in the corporate world, leisure reading was relegated to my vacation time. 2020 gave me the time to dig into all those books I had lined up on my shelves just waiting to be opened. Plus, the only items in my shopping bags coming back from Austin were books. I’ve been averaging two books per week now, and even signed up for Audible, something I never would have done prior to quarantine. 2020 introspection reminds me that reading and learning are essential to my true nature.

Find Your Own Hideaway or Design Your Own Retreat

Fortunately, I live in a retreat-like setting. I call my place The Namaste Getaway, as it really is a blissful getaway less than an hour from two major cities. So, everyday for me is a mini-getaway. The outdoors are calling me. Many of my Facebook Live and IGTV sessions I host from open-air spaces just outside my house.

I routinely practice yoga on my back porch, and love to eat my meals outside. My favorite book reading spot is my front porch, and I enjoy long walks down my deserted road every day. 2020 introspection reminds me that there is beauty all around each one of us, if we open our eyes and our hearts.

Despite the fact that I live in a mini-retreat spot, I found a way to up the ante. Last week, I spent nine days and nights in my newly-opened BarnOm Airbnb. The 720-square-foot barndominium is just a stone’s throw from my house. However, every change can be a welcome one. I felt as if I was in a cabin in the backwoods. The nights were far cooler than normal, so I bundled up inside with hot teas, lap blankets, and of course my bundle of books. 2020 introspection teaches that it’s ok to take it slow and enjoy the ride.

2020 Introspection is about Finding — and Keeping — The Silver Linings

TheBarnOm at The Namaste Getaway perfect for 2020 introspection

Although I still daydream about international travel, I don’t want to return to the old normal.

Nine months is the time it takes a baby to fully develop in the womb. I think some of the best things about the Covid era are firmly planted in my lifestyle, and I will do everything I can to keep those silver linings from fading away or being discarded.

2020 introspection wisdom says that getting on a plane is easy, but to travel within is harder — but more important.

LoveJoy-cake vegan-friendly treats in Austin Texas

Plentiful Vegan-friendly Indulgent Delectables in Austin, Texas

Suggestions for World Vegan Day Week

Soul food. Cake and cookies. Ice cream. Those are foods that seem to soothe kids and adults. Unless you need a vegan-friendly version. Then, you can be in a quandary, asking, “Is there butter in here? Eggs? Milk? Or, God-forbid, lard?”  

I grew up with zero options for plant-based treats. Nowadays, there are outstanding choices, especially for Austinites.

In the last few years, the Austin vegan-friendly scene has multiplied. Following is a rundown of just a few new-ish healthy alternatives to answer your cravings. 

Lovejoy: Vegan-friendly Edible Art 

LoveJoy-cake vegan-friendly treats in Austin Texas

Rhonda Baird is an artist. She earned an undergrad in painting and drawing, and a masters in sculpture and jewelry. As a result, Lovejoy treats are intricate works of art. 

“Art has always been a passion, and I think it’s just a natural progression to apply the techniques and philosophies I studied to the food I create. Frosting and decoration are my rewards for completing all the math and science involved in baking. Seriously though, baking is definitely a science and an art.”

In addition to being an artist, Rhonda is a chef who trained at The Natural Epicurean culinary school. Along the way, she learned about Ayurvedic cooking and other healthier modes of food prep as opposed to the more butter, sugar, and salt the better. 

LoveJoy-cake vegan-friendly treats in Austin Texas

“I’ve always been health-conscious. I became a vegetarian during my 20’s. About six and a half years ago, I decided to go vegan. I was ready for all aspects of my life to align: health, ethics, and morals. Living in Austin made it easy because it is a great city to be vegan. We have a huge vegan community, great food, and awesome events that make it accessible and accepted.”

Although her training and initial interest were in the savory heartier style of cooking, she morphed into indulgent goodies and it felt right.  

“Baking makes me happy, so I decided to keep baking. I found that people were much more open to vegan desserts and began my mission to convert people, one baked treat at a time,” she says. 

LoveJoy-cake vegan-friendly treats in Austin Texas

Rhonda operates LoveJoy, which is a family name, from her East Austin home. She’s a vendor for the Wandering Vegan Market but much of her business is via special order. 

“I offer a new approach to how cakes taste and look. My training as a health-conscious chef led me to use different herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables in unique ways. I prefer to use flowers and herbs to decorate instead of frosting. My baked goods are small batch and artisanal. The great thing about Austin is there is room for everyone to create what they are best at doing.”

Her offerings are 100 percent vegan, and many of her delicacies are gluten-free. Rhonda makes her own gluten-free base for cookies and pie-crusts. Lovejoy muffins are spelt-based. Organic unbleached flour makes for fluffier cakes and cupcakes which are her bestsellers. She says they bring love and joy to the consumer. 

“Ultimately, I want them to feel special. I want to create a beautiful cake hug!”

Top it off with Nada Moo! Ice Cream

Nada Moo! vegan ice cream at the Scoop Shop in Austin

NadaMoo! vegan ice cream is available in most grocery stores in Austin, and thousands across North America. But the family-owned Austin-based business launched their first scoop shop in 2018 on South Lamar.

The ice cream parlor has more than a dozen mouth-watering flavors like peach cobbler, marshmallow stardust, or caramel cold brew and cookies, along with favorites like organic vanilla, organic chocolate, or organic chocolate mint. 

You can pick out a cone or cup, or purchase pints from the coolers. Additionally, the staff can whip you up all sorts of shakes and floats. Some are mixed with soda, coffee, or espresso. Others, add in cereal crunchies, sprinkles, chocolate chips, or cookies. All are vegan and gluten-free, even the cookie dough. 

“It is our aim to penetrate every household as a solid option for ice cream lovers of all generations who are simply looking to do better for themselves and their families and the planet when they decide to indulge in ice cream,” says NadaMoo! President and CEO, Daniel Nicholson.

Nada Moo! vegan ice cream at the Scoop Shop in Austin

NadaMoo! looks and tastes just like the dairy version. It’s rich and creamy because coconut milk has a saturated fat content similar to that of cow’s milk, but without the negative side effects to one’s health, or the environment.  Another plus, the sugar content is lower than most frozen desserts, because pure agave syrup is part of the winning recipe. 

Sassy Vegan-Friendly Soul Food

Sassy's Vegetarian Soul Food Truck in Austin, Texas

Vegans typically stay clear of Soul Food, as animal fats and flesh seem to make their way into most of the dishes. That’s where Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food hits the mark. You can order anything off the menu, without thinking twice.

Sassy’s serves Soul Food from a trailer at 1403 E 7th Street minus the high levels of cholesterol, sodium, or saturated fat, but chock full of flavor. 

Owner, Andrea Dawson stopped eating animal products for digestive health reasons. But, she didn’t want to give up her taste for Soul Food. She searched for vegan Soul dining in Austin and came up empty-handed. Not to be discouraged, she chose to stir up her own creations. She found a retiring food truck, bought it, and began serving up the food was craving.

Sassy's Vegetarian Soul Food Truck in Austin, Texas

She says most of the items on her menu mimic the taste of her family dishes, but without the meat or pork products.  

Although one guest said she wanted to eat everything on the menu, the best seller is Chicon and Waffles. Chicon (the street where her trailer first was parked) is a chicken-flavored seitan. It’s such a filling dish that people order it any time of day. The waffles are egg-less, which can be a treat for those who love their waffles, but who are nixing the eggs.

Sassy’s has standards like black-eyed-peas and cornbread. Collards, cabbage, and kale. The baked sweet potatoes are smothered in vegan butter. There’s even creamy Cajun Mac and cheese with sausage. But, the cheese is nut-based and the sausage is plant-based. 

“I have lots of regulars that have been here from the very beginning and have seen how the menu has evolved. Young people who want to eat a healthier alternative than their parents. Older adults who are now being told to modify their diets. And lifelong vegans looking to vary their choices,” she adds.

Due to Covid, Sassy’s is open Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 to 8 p.m. The food truck has a six-foot space at the order window separating the staff from the customer.  There are outdoor eating areas within the yard.

Read about my long-time favorite plant-based Austin options on my prior post.

Vegan and Vegetarian Souls Love Austin, Texas

Austin Paradise for Vegan and Vegetarian Community

Austin, Texas, less than an hour away from The Namaste Getaway, is a smorgasbord of vegan and vegetarian treats. Every time I head into the city, I satisfy my taste buds with a variety of eats, and buy plenty of plant-based gluten-free items to take back home. 

I moved to Texas in 1998. San Antonio to be precise. Back then, there were no vegetarian dining spots in the Alamo City. (Today, there are plenty.) So from my early days in Texas, I relished visiting Austin to get the kinds of foods that are too laborious for me to make for myself.

My long-time favorites are Mr. Natural and Juiceland and I pretty much swing by one or both on every drive in or out of Austin.

Mr. Natural: 100 Percent Vegetarian

Mr. Natural panaderia items, all vegan and vegetarian

Mr. Natural has two locations. One on South Lamar, and the other, on East Cesar Chavez. Both Mr. Naturals have an assortment of health food grocery items in the freezers and pantry shelves. But the East Austin spot expanded to include a huge store next door filled with herbal remedies, supplements, informative books, and more.

Before Covid, the lunch buffet was a big hit. For one low price, you got your choice of salad, two sides, and a main dish, most of which were veganized Mexican standards, like tamales made with tofu and sunflower seeds or seitan-based faux chicken with mole. 

When Mr. Natural first opened in 1988, the family-owned all-vegetarian business had many food items made with cheese or honey. Now, the bakery section is 100 percent vegan, and all food items can be modified for vegans. For example, at breakfast time, you can order traditional migas with cheese and eggs, or the tofu scramble and nut-cheese version.

Mr. Natural vegan and vegetarian tamales in Austin, Texas

But, perhaps what’s always been my magnet is the panaderia section. We’re talking traditional Mexican bakery items like wedding cake cookies, empanadas de camote (sweet potato turnovers), and marranitos (piggy-shaped gingerbread cookies) just like the kind I used to eat in Mexico City. Except that these have no trace of animal products. 

Plus, the bakery is increasingly making their delicacies like brownies, dark chocolate muffins, carrot cake, and coconut cake in gluten-free options.  And while I follow a low-glycemic diet, their items are not overly sweet, and they have been incorporating agave, a low-glycemic sweetener, into their family recipes. 

In case it wasn’t obvious, Mr. Natural makes everything in-house.

Juiceland: 100 Percent Vegan

Juiceland all vegan food and drink located throughout Austin, Texas

When I first started driving in to Austin, my favorite Juiceland was on Barton Springs, a few blocks west of Lamar. Now, there are 27 locations. Extra nice for me, there is an outlet inside Austin Bergstrom Airport. Even nicer, one of the newer builds is in Belterra, where I often teach yoga or have private clients. 

Maybe it’s because I’m a regular, but I say the Belterra staff is amazing. The owner/manager greets everyone like they’re his besties. Another loyal employee whips me up her own off-the-menu hot drink creation.  Delicious, and healthy. Like everything they make and serve.

Don’t let the name fool you. As someone who’s avoided high-glycemic foods (that means most fruit) for ten years, I avoid juices and smoothies. However, they have great shots that are spicy or tart and feel as if they are burning away any bacteria or viruses.

Juiceland all vegan food and drink located throughout Austin, Texas

My favorite is Hot Shot or Dr. Doctor, the latter of which is a one- or two-ounce booster made with lemon, beet, ginger, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, turmeric, oreganol, and habanero. Hot Shot is similar but has turmeric, apple cider vinegar and other power additives.

One of the prior menu items, not on the menu board, they can still whip up is Cauliflower Power, a keto-friendly low glycemic smoothie thickened not with sugary bananas but, you guessed it. Cauliflower.

But I usually want to eat versus drink here. That’s why I’m a fan of the pre-prepared gluten-free Double Rainbow Quinoa Salad, the Beyond Burrito, and the agave-sweetened Mannawich. 

The quinoa bowl has 257 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 6 grams of sugar. The Beyond Burrito has 19 grams of protein, and 5 grams of sugar.  The sprouted Manna has 390 calories, and 12 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber.

For Texans in the other big cities, there are several Juicelands in Dallas and Houston. But home is Austin. 

Wheatsville: Wide Array of Vegan and Vegetarian Options

Wheatsville in Austin, Texas has a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian items

My other go-to in Austin is Wheatsville Food Co-op.

Similar to Mr. Natural, the health food grocery store had an excellent hot and cold food bar until Coronavirus health rules nixed that. Now, you order your plant-based favorites from the deli or find them pre-packaged. One of the most popular items is their popcorn tofu, and that can be eaten as is, with their cashew tamari dressing, or in sandwiches. Other favorites of mine are the African Peanut Soup and the Tofu Curry, both found in the coolers now. 

Of course, there are tons of vegan and vegetarian items in the grocery area that I stock up on while I’m there.  For example, This Dip Is Nuts is a plant-based cheesey dip that can be used in cooking, or as is.  There are several flavors available.

There are two Wheatsville locations. First, there’s one by the University of Texas on North Lamar. The second is on South Lamar, just north of Highway 290.

Whole Foods Market: It all Started in Austin

Finally, it would be amiss to ignore Whole Foods. This is an Austin-based giant. There are six locations from the newest megastore in East Austin to one southwest in Bee Cave.  The flagship store is just west of downtown. It’s on Lamar just north of the river. The more-than-just-a-grocery store is filled with kitchen islands and food court like areas where you can nibble and nosh and all types of food and drink, from special-order vegan pizza to vegan and vegetarian Asian- or Indian-inspired tasty dishes to smoothies. 

Plus, when I’m here, I enjoy strolling through the non-food aisles. Whole Foods has a great assortment of natural soaps, bath bombs, and even natural-fiber clothing. Some of my standard yoga wear was bought at Whole Foods. For an earlier article I wrote about Whole Foods, click here.

Since neither Whole Foods nor Wheatsville are strictly vegan and vegetarian retailers, as always, ask about what can be hidden ingredients. For example, Whole Foods offers two types of brussels sprouts in the deli area. One is made with fish sauce. 

Comment below on which is your favorite spot for dining in Austin, and read my next article that features newer plant-based eateries.

Return to the Sacred by Adam Bauer

Adam Bauer Honors His Gurus in Return to the Sacred

Adam Bauer released his third album, “Return to the Sacred,” last weekend. Bauer is a bhakti yoga practitioner, teacher, and healing artist. He routinely shares his voice and inspiration through both ancient and contemporary spiritual practices.

About Adam Bauer

Adam Bauer, Bhakti yogi and kirtan artist

He began this path when he was just 18 giving up sex, drugs, and rock and roll for a life of renunciation, poverty, and celibacy. After a few years, he left the monastic life, but remained true to his spiritual quest. 

“I feel incredibly grateful to be on this path, writing and singing and playing music in service of healing along the path of awakening. I’m very keenly aware of the depth of blessings and guidance that have run through my life since I began to awaken to divine reality as a teenager. I feel tremendously fortunate, to have felt so taken care of by the great spirit for my whole life.”

For 30 years, he has been a practitioner of the “I Ching,” or “Book of Changes.” Likewise, for almost as long, he’s immersed himself in the world of sacred music. He toured for many years with the Kirtan Wallah, Krishna Das. Another bhakti great he shared the stage with was the late Shyamdas, author of more than 20 books.

Bauer was also close to the legendary Ram Dass. Ram Dass was a Harvard psychology professor, who revolutionized American consciousness, with his blockbuster “Be Here Now.” Adam Bauer sang at his compound in Hawaii a number of times.

Krishna Das, Shyamdas, and Ram Dass each spent a significant amount of time in Kainchi, India. That’s where they soaked up the wisdom of their common guru, Neem Karoli Baba.

Neem Karoli Baba (1900-1973) was an inspiration to the younger American.  Maharaj-ji, as he was lovingly called by his devotees, was “a living example of the way boundless consciousness and love can abide within what appears to be a bounded bodily form. He’s an example of someone who shows how much bigger and brighter the world is than what most of us grew up believing. That in itself can be truly transformational,” Bauer says.

Tribute to Two Luminaries

Sadly, Ram Dass passed away December 21, 2019. That night, Bauer composed a mantra to Ram Dass and Neem Karoli Baba. The single is one of the highlights of “Return to the Sacred.” 

“This melody and mantra spontaneously arose in those predawn moments. I added some of the classic messages that Ram Dass brought us directly from Maharaj-ji. Love everyone. Serve everyone. Feed everyone. And, remember God,” Bauer says.

His tribute, “Baba (Neem Karoli Guru Bhai),” carries simple notes and repetitive lyrics. The tune is easily lodged in the listener’s head — and heart. Yet, it’s layered with the elixirs from India. Venerated musicians and vocalists joined in a recording studio in India. There, the engineers incorporated the pakhawaj, a traditional temple drum, a bass sitar, and the bansuri bamboo flute. Stateside, a cellist and percussionist added their special touches. “It’s great to have the ability to collaborate with such devotion-rich artists,” from East and West notes Bauer.

Definition of a Guru

Westerners, often have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of a guru. Adam Bauer clarifies it. 

“There’s a lot of different ways to think about the word guru. One definition is that which dispels darkness. There are many levels at which people can come into our life and help us move from darkness towards light.

“If we are looking for someone to be a big-G Guru—an infallible and perfect distillation of divinity with no faults or shadows in themselves–that is a very tall order which is not often fulfilled in this world. But, there are many ways that people can be small-g gurus, or teachers, for us in one domain or another. We can learn from so many people and situations, even though very few people are perfect and most everyone is fallible. In the end, I would say that one human definition of the word guru is someone who can truly help us evolve, practically speaking, into better and more complete expressions of ourselves. And there’s a lot of those people in the world, thank God.”

Finding Your Guru

Some say that your guru doesn’t appear until you’re ready for it. Therefore, it’s pointless to be searching with a fine-tooth comb. Bauer concurs.

“I believe the teacher appears when the student is ready. But, it’s good to remember that sometimes she appears in disguise. So, it’s on us to open wide our eyes and learn to see the divine everywhere.

“I never met Neem Karoli Baba in the body. I’ve only met him within myself and as shared in my relations with other devotees. Maharaj-ji has played a little hard to get with me over the years –as he has with many people– though he has shown up occasionally in the dream realm. I have often felt him in my own fashion while singing or playing kirtan, or involved in my own prayers or devotional practices. I have perhaps felt him most often in my relations with other devotees in his sphere—some say that the sangha (association) is the guru, which allows and invites us all to embody that sacred essence in how we treat each other.”

Some seekers fall for self-proclaimed gurus. Bauer says that’s not always a bad thing.

“In my experience, it looks like we’re all finding our own paths, even while divinity is guiding our footsteps in ways we cannot even comprehend. Plenty of people have learned a lot through their experiences with false gurus. One person’s guru is another’s shyster. We must believe in, and trust, our own Self, and do our best to love everyone and treat them all kindly. We are all one. As long as any of us suffer, we all suffer. We were born to love each other. So let’s do that.”

Finally, Bauer says Shyamdas, taught him that “detachment is useful to cultivate in many circumstances in the world, no question. But ultimately, when we find God, when we have our own living experience with the power of the divine, that’s when we should be holding on for dear life, so that we remain attached to what is sacred and true, and don’t lose our anchor.”

He concludes, “I’ve had a handful of very important teachers appear in my life at what seemed like just the right times. The blessings that arose from those relationships continue to unfold and ripen many years later. I feel like part of my life work is to redeem the faith that others have had in me, by continuing to focus my attention on some of the basics of living a good life, things like being kind to all creatures; stewarding nature and my relationships as best I can; looking for opportunities to serve others and recognize the divine in everything around me.”

To listen or buy Adam Bauer singles or album, visit his web site, iTunes, or Spotify.

For more about bhakti yoga, use the search function to read related archived articles.

Sandra Gomez de la Torre, Kundalini instructor

This is Kundalini Yoga: El Encuentro con el Yoga Kundalini

Guest blog by Sandra Gomez de la Torre, (pictured above) a Kundalini Yoga instructor in Barcelona, Spain

I rarely post guest blogs. However, this first-person story about the Kundalini Yoga community struck a chord. Sandra, aka Narayan Himat Kaur, wrote in Spanish. So please (try to) read her version. However, for the Spanish-challenged, scroll down to see my translation. But, please recognize that things are always lost in translation. To learn more about Kundalini Yoga, check out one of my earlier articles that references how its can settle the mind.

El Encuentro con el Kundalini Yoga, y el Yo

No te voy a pedir que lo entiendas…

No se puede encender la luz a alguien que no quiere ver.

Esta foto es del año pasado. Llegaba del Festival de Francia de Kundalini Yoga al que había ido por primera vez.

Era el 50 aniversario.

Había mucha gente (3,000 personas), familias con niñes, Yoguis y Sikhs por todos los lados. 

Nos levantábamos a las 4:00 para la Sadhana, (práctica espiritual diaria basada en el yoga y en el canto de mantras). El día transcurría practicando yoga y haciendo ayunos de 16 horas a partir de las 15h.

En el festival no había drogas, ni alcohol, ni sustancias estupefacientes. De hecho ni se podía fumar. La entrada para una semana, con pensión completa en habitación compartida me había costado poco más de 350€ ($US 415).

Kundalini Yoga me había ayudado y por qué no decirlo, me había cambiado.

Ya no era la misma persona que había construido con mis patrones y experiencias. Tenía cierto miedo y desconocimiento de la persona con la que me encontraba, que era YO, porque ya no estaba el personaje que me había creado o apenas aparecía.

Algo dentro de mi, se manifestó. Donde había estado todos estos años mi alma? La vez que había estado más cerca de ella, fue cuando mi madre marchó a otro plano.

Al segundo día de estar allí, salí corriendo sin rumbo porque mi confrontación fue tal, que pensé haberme metido en una secta.

Fui a un pueblo caminando durante 45 minutos, vi una iglesia y me metí. Necesitaba reconciliarme conmigo, con Dios, con la vida. 

Mi madre desde los éteres azules, me dijo:

— Hija, crees que no es una secta ir a un sitio donde trabajas 12 horas al día para que alguien muy rico, se haga más rico todavía sólo porque tienes un sueldo?

— Hija crees que no es una secta vivir de una forma en la que solo se es feliz por estímulos externos y por lo que te quieren los demás? 

— Hija, crees que no vives en una secta si vives como un robot, sin alma, sin sentir más que emociones o sentimientos bajos como rabia, odio, ira y miedo?

— Pequeña, he de decirte que estás viviendo en una secta dentro de ti.

Volví al festival tras estar cuatro horas fuera.

Me había reconciliado con la vida. Entendí que Dios no es más que la voz interior de cada uno. Entendí que yo y Dios, Dios y yo, somos uno. 

Mi familia hacía algunas preguntas raras 😂 yo les entiendo. Pero os aseguro que nunca en mi vida me había visto tan clara en mi propio espejo.

Era como si hubiera vuelto a nacer, como si hubiera vuelto a ser una niña. Inocente, sin culpas. Porque en el fondo todos los somos por muchas atrocidades que hayamos hecho.

Podía ver mi mente, vacía.

Podía ver mi cara sonriente sin motivos aparentes.

Podía notar en cada poro de mi piel que me había enamorado de la vida. 

Vestir de blanco era un ejercicio de conciencia sobre mi cuerpo.

Ponerme un turbante significaba que iba a estar enfocada en mi interior y que no iba a dolerme la cabeza. (Porque aunque no lo creáis, 3000 personas con nuestra neurosis y nuestra basura mental, afectan a nuestro sistema).

Hacer yoga cada día varías horas, me hacía estar en un estado de éxtasis que pareciera que la vida se había pintado de un color totalmente neutro. No había bueno ni malo, mejor ni peor.

Observaba a los niños, a las familias y pensaba que si algún día tenía hijos, me gustaría que vivieran la experiencia. (Libres y si ellos lo eligen). 

Hacer ayunos (no por estética y para adelgazar), me parecía una fantasía ya que me daba más energía que si comiera cinco veces al día. 

Mirar a la gente a los ojos para saludarles sin conocernos de nada con un Sat Nam mientras sonreíamos, era similar a oler rosas a cada instante.

Éramos una comunidad, porque nos servíamos los unos a los otros. No lo podía creer, de repente había una familia de 3,000 personas.

Llegó el tantra. Mirar a los ojos a alguien durante más de 8 horas tres días, fue como ver toda mi vida en una película de cine siendo yo la espectadora.

Lloré, reí, me confronté, me enfadé… no se. Todas las Sandras que hay en mi salieron en escena y a todas las abracé. 

Entendí la devoción, el amor, la compasión.

Estoy tan agradecida a la vida y a las enseñanzas que lo mejor que le puedo desear a alguien es que viva esta experiencia al menos una vez en la vida. 

Ahora no pasamos por un buen momento, pero cada unx de nosotrxs debe encontrar su verdad, abrazando la de los demás.

Para mi esto es Kundalini Yoga y ojalá siempre siga siendo así

Finding Kundalini Yoga, and Oneself

I won’t ask you to understand…

You can’t turn on a light for someone who doesn’t want to see.  

This photo is from last year. It was my first time at the Kundalini Yoga Festival in France.

It was the 50th anniversary.

There were loads of people (3,000), families with kids, yogis, and Sikhs everywhere.

We woke up at 4:00 a.m. for Sadhana, (the Kundalini daily spiritual practice comprised primarily of mantra meditation). Each day we practiced yoga, and at 3 p.m. began our 16-hour fasts.

This was a drug-free, alcohol-free, substance-free festival. In fact, not even cigarettes were allowed.  The cost for the week, including meals and shared rooms, was just a little more than 350€ (US$ 414).

Kundalini Yoga had helped me, and why not admit it, it had changed me.

No longer was I the the person made up of my own imprints and experiences. I was a bit afraid, and unsure of who I would find myself to be. I was ME, because I no longer was the character I had created or barely came into view.

Something within was revealed. Where had my soul been all these years? The only time that it was close to me was when my mother left her body.

My second day there, I was afraid I’d gotten myself involved with some sect. I left running.  To who knows where?

After 45 minutes, I was in a small town. I saw a church, and went inside. I needed to reconcile with myself, with God, and with my life. 

My mother, from the blue ether, said to me: 

— My daughter, you don’t think it’s a sect where you work for 12 hours a day for some rich person that’s only getting richer because you’re a salaried employee?

— My daughter, you don’t think it’s a sect living in a world where you’re only happy with the help of external stimuli and thinking about why others love you? 

— My daughter, you don’t think it’s a sect living like a soul-less robot, feeling no emotions except anger, wrath, hatred and fear?

— My little one, I have to tell you that you’re living with a sect inside yourself.

I returned to the festival after being gone for four hours.

I had reconciled with my life. I understood that God is nothing more than one’s inner voice. I understood that God and I, I and God, we are one.

My family had asked some strange questions 😂 I understand them. But I assure you that never in my life had I seen myself so clearly in my own mirror. 

It was as if I had been reborn, as if I was a young girl again, Innocent, guiltless. Because at heart, we are all guilty for so many atrocities that we have done.

I could see my mind, empty.

I could see my face, smiling for no apparent reason.  

I could see in every one of my pores, that I was in love with life.

To dress in white was an exercise in bodily consciousness.

To put a turban on my head meant that I’d be focused inward and that I would have no headaches. (Because believe it or not, 3,000 people with neurosis and mental garbage, affects our body).

To do yoga for several hours every day, put me in a state of ecstasy as if life had been painted in a completely neutral color. There was no good or bad, no better or worse.

I watched children and families, and I thought if I some day have kids I’d like them to live this experience. (Free, and as they choose). 

To fast (not for vanity or to lose weight), was like a fantasy as it gave me more energy that if I had eaten five times a day. 

To greet people we didn’t know anything about, looking at them in their eyes and saying hello with a Sat Nam and a smile, was like smelling a rose at every moment.

We were a community because we served each other. I couldn’t believe it, all of a sudden, there was a family of 3,000 members.

Then there was the tantra. Looking in someone’s eyes for more than eight hours, three days, was like seeing my life in a filmstrip, and I was the viewer.

I cried. I laughed. I faced myself. I got angry with myself.  I don’t know, I guess all the Sandras within me came out to the stage and I embraced them all.

I understood the devotion, love and compassion. 

I’m so thankful for life and its lessons that the most I can wish anyone is to live this experience at least once in their lives.

Now, we’re not experiencing good times, but for every one of us (he/she/it/we/they) should find their truth and embracing everyone else’s essence.

This, to me, is what is Kundalini Yoga and I hope it’s always this way.

Jai Uttal sings behind the walls

Jai Uttal Supports the Guys Behind The Walls

Everyone is Important–Jai Uttal

Month five of quarantine. Too many have lost a loved one. It’s no longer six degrees of separation. 

And yet, we retreat in our homes, and in our communities. We get in the car, or order pick-up or delivery, and tune in to Zoom sessions. Few of us are surrounded, daily, by the raging virus. 

For those cramped and caged in correctional and detention facilities, there’s no place to hide, retreat, or get away. Even worse, there’s no escape from coronavirus. Today, ICE reports 4,131 covid-19 positive cases throughout its facilities., 72 at Karnes County Residential Center, where I aided women seeking asylum.

Even worse, coronavirus took over the San Quentin high-security prison. As of August 3, there were about 2,200 infected San Quentin inmates (two-thirds of the population). While 22 died. Those who are “locked up,” for whatever reason, are mostly nameless and faceless neighbors thanks to the NIMBY mentality. 

Jai Uttal recognizes the guys at the state prison’s names and faces, as well as their melodious voices and tender souls. That’s why the Grammy-nominated kirtan artist released “Behind the Walls.”

We are All Brothers–Behind the Walls

Jai Uttal has been singing in San Quentin State Prison for many years
Jai Uttal leading kirtan at San Quentin (photo by Wari Om)

 

“For the last 11 years, I’ve been going semi-regularly to San Quentin, singing with the guys. I saw that these men, who at first seemed so hard, were melting and smiling and singing and expressing so much emotion.”

“Standing outside of San Quentin can be quite intimidating. It took me a while to find my way to be authentic and real with the men; to not see them as ‘other’. But once that happened, I found a community of brothers there who were so incredibly committed to their spiritual practices and to finding inner freedom within the confines of their incarceration. Their dedication and deep spiritual longing were completely inspiring to me.”

For example, one of the inmates told Jai, “We are all brothers here (at San Quentin): The House of Healing.”

What’s more, scientific studies confirm that music is healing. Many times, I’ve written about that, and it’s in my upcoming book.  Psychotherapist Viana Vallejo* says, “Music and movement regulate the central nervous system, and when done with others builds connection, and helps counteract trauma.”

Every Human Being Deserves Medical Attention–Jai Uttal

But Jai’s spiritual music can’t heal everything. In May, a facility in Chino, California transferred 120 prisoners to San Quentin. All were over age 65, or with underlying medical conditions. However, they weren’t tested before the transfer. Consequently, it spread like wildfire. 

Not surprisingly, the debacle at the oldest prison in California sickened Jai. “What kind of unconscious person decided to send 120 infected persons to San Quentin?” His new track tells the world about covid-19 spreading among the men he knows inside the high-security fences, gates, and doors.

“Everyone is important. Every human being deserves medical attention and care in times of deep crisis. When I heard about the intense covid-19 surge inside the prison, and how little the authorities were doing about it, I was affected very deeply, and personally concerned with the plight of some of my friends there. There’s very minimal medical care. And, the local hospitals are not overjoyed taking in prisoners.”

Hard Men Shed Tears…Behind the Walls — Jai Uttal

Back in the ’70s, when he sang in prisons while touring with Ram Dass, Jai saw the incarcerated as normal folks that made mistakes. Or, people of color who couldn’t afford the best legal defenses.  

Jai hopes his  “Behind the Walls,” viewable on YouTube will bring donations to a non-profit co-founded by a former San Quentin inmate.  Re:Store Justice aims to heal traumas, find lasting solutions to crime, and build safer, healthier, and more equitable communities.

“We have our local health food store, and our local penitentiary. It’s amazing to me that what’s happening behind those walls is going unnoticed by most of the residents of Northern California,” and beyond.

* In full disclosure, my daughter