The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

WelcomeOmDC Guest Blog, Pt. 2 – Off the Mat Into the World March 4, 2011

Still on the fence re: attending Off the Mat, Into the World ™: Yoga, Purpose and Action Weeklong Intensive in DC next week?  Here is Pt. 2 of my guest blog for WelcomeOmDC, illustrating that if you give yourself the gift of the Intensive, OTM will continue to give back to you – so you can continue giving back to the world – sustainably.  Thanks for reading!  OM Shanti.

*  *  *

Take Your Practice Off The Mat

(Part 2 of 2)

Yoga teacher Holly Meyers is a DC ambassador for Off the Mat Into the World ® (OTM), a nonprofit that uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.

OTM’s 5-day “Yoga, Purpose & Action” Intensive – coming to DC March 10-14 – guides participants through a deep, transformational process of self-inquiry and skill building facilitated by yoga, visioning, lecture and group process. There are still a few slots left for this amazing journey.  Visit www.flowyogacenter.com to register.

This is Part 2 of Holly’s blog about OTM.

I hear there are about 10 spots left in the Off the Mat Into the World ® Intensive here in DC.  If you’re still wondering whether this training is for you, please consider…

I never imagined, after participating in “Yoga, Purpose & Action” at New York’s Omega Institute last June, how much inspiration and support I would continue to receive from the OTM team – plus, from their regional ambassadors around the world.

When I arrived at the OTM Intensive last June, I had a pretty clear idea of my “purpose” – to establish an organization that decreases violence in families and among youth, by passing on the healing tools of yoga and related practices.  Today, as teens and young adults in my urban neighborhood murder each other in the streets, and as families in the suburban neighborhoods of my childhood hide their troubles behind closed doors, I remain committed to this cause.

To start this organization, I will need help.  I will need collateral.  I will need collaborators.  I will need community support.  Through ongoing involvement with and mentoring from OTM, I am learning what it takes to develop this help.  I am getting some practice in all of these areas.

Participants in the OTM Intensive may continue working with the organization as “ambassadors” in their local regions by coordinating Yoga in Action (YIA) events.  YIA is the grassroots initiative that brings the Off the Mat experience to the local level (vs. the internationally-focused Global Seva Challenge – more below).

For example, last fall, I lead the Yoga in Action DC campaign on Facebook.  OTM introduced this fund/awareness raising initiative worldwide and asked local ambassadors to help spread the word.  For me, the campaign was a small effort (compared to the fund-raisers and events that more experienced OTM ambassadors held); at the same time, it helped me continue to come out of my shell and incubate the OTM presence here in DC.  Until that activity, I felt a little shy about reaching out to Washington-area Karma Yogis.  I’d been practicing yoga in the city since 1993, but only started to feel linked-in after my teacher training in 2008 (to no fault of the community; just my own self-doubt).  Coordinating the YIA-DC campaign pushed me to seek and connect with fellow yogis who are devoted to service.  It also forced me to embrace Facebook!  As friends point out, I went from 0 to 60 in no time on the social network!  I now love connecting with and being inspired by yoga and other mindful pals around the world.

There are infinite ideas, inspiration and motivation out there.

When OTM announced their DC Intensive, I offered to lead a “bridge event” that would raise awareness about the style of OTM trainings.  “Chill Time with Yoga in Action” was held last December at Past Tense Studio in Mt. Pleasant.  In the two-hour class, participants built an altar, shared about their service-related jobs, family roles and community activities, then practiced yoga collaboratively.  This community-building class will continue at Past Tense quarterly, so additional Karma Yogis can join the circle for rejuvenation in their lives and sustainability in their work.  The best part was – I didn’t have to invent the concept.  OTM leaders and ambassadors helped me shape the Intensive elements to meet the needs of DC’s active Seva community.

Collaboration is a huge part of OTM and YIA work.

In fact, I am looking forward to meeting potential Yoga in Action co-facilitators at the March “Yoga, Purpose and Action” Intensive!  All three of the DC yoginis who attended the Omega training last year moved away from the area soon after, sadly.  My next hope for YIA activity is to lead the 7-Week Small Group curriculum, which unites a finite group for a journey of peer-supported self-inquiry, collaborative exercise, and yoga practice (of course!), leading to a unique Karma Yoga project for our DC community.  OTM’s vision is to seed these YIA small groups of change among local communities, to inspire collaboration and connection among yoga activists.

I have been deeply inspired seeing the amount of noble service work accomplished by YIA facilitators and other relationships that have bloomed out of the Intensives.  Last year, past OTM Intensive participants cheered-on each others fund-raising efforts for OTM’s Global Seva Challenge.  And as the emotional stories from that recent South Africa Seva journey currently saturate the walls of Facebook, this year’s fund-raising Challenge for a 2012 Haiti project is in full swing.  Here is another way that OTM’s mentorship can support my own vision to start an organization – by participating in the Global Seva Challenge, I would get great fund raising experience!  Not sure if I’ll take the plunge this year…

More will be revealed.

Since the Omega training, regular conference calls with Off the Mat Into the World mentors – including Hala Khouri, Claire Williams, Kerri Kelly and Davian Den Otter (all of whom you will meet next week at the DC Intensive) – have infused me with creativity and confidence.  Off the Mat Into the World is committed to investing in their Intensive participants’ leadership growth – as regional OTM ambassadors, and, toward their own visions and purpose.  Hearing the experiences of others who participated in the 5-day Intensive around the world has been immensely fortifying – for my YIA work, my yoga teaching, and, my life.

We all support each other as brothers and sisters who experienced the intensely deep journey of self-inquiry, connecting to our purpose and each other, and activating into the world.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.

You can learn more about OTM’s Yoga in Action initiative, the Global Seva Challenge and future “Yoga, Purpose & Action” trainings here: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/index.php

http://www.welcomeomdc.com/2011/03/03/take-your-practice-off-the-mat-part-2/

Advertisements
 

WelcomeOmDC Guest Blog – Off the Mat Into the World January 24, 2011

Wishing you wellness!

Honored that WelcomeOmDC invited me to write a two-part blog about my experience with Off the Mat Into the World’s “Yoga, Purpose & Action” intensive, coming to DC this March.  (Sponsored by Flow Yoga Center and Anahata Grace.)  Curious what it’s like to practice with OTM co-founders Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling?  Read on…

OM Shanti.  h*

*  *  *

Off the Mat Into the World’s Leadership Intensive Comes to DC in March!

(Part 1 of 2)

Yoga teacher Holly Meyers is a DC ambassador for Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM), a nonprofit that uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change. OTM’s 5-day “Yoga, Purpose & Action” intensive – coming to DC March 10-14 – guides participants through a deep, transformational process of self-inquiry and skill building facilitated by yoga, visioning, lecture and group process.

Last June I participated in Off the Mat Into the World’s 5-day leadership intensive at the Omega Institute in New York. As the DC intensive approaches, I’m feeling as giddy as a little kid!

I am super excited to practice with three of the most effective teachers of yoga and leadership. OTM founders Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling are like a power trio who fuel the training with their unique strengths.

My first experience with Seane – whose advanced yoga poses grace the covers of Yoga Journal and other magazines – was one year ago, at her 3-day Chakra Vinyasa workshop. Being a traditional Hatha teacher with just a little Vinyasa experience – and, knowing about Seane’s butt-kicking Asana practice – I was a bit nervous! My fears soon dissolved as I immersed myself in one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I did not simply “get through” the three days – Seane’s prayerful support and encouragement propelled my practice beyond my imagination.

Complementing Seane’s intensely physical style is Hala’s wisdom as a psychologist. Her music choices uplift the heart and soul, and encourage emotional release through the body. During last year’s intensive, U2’s “Grace” hit the air and I felt a visceral surge of self-acceptance that still brings me great serenity today. Hala’s lecture on Somatic Experiencing provided tools for maintaining balance during emotional triggers, which are invaluable for people like me – a survivor of hardship who now works in service to those with similar backgrounds.

Suzanne rounds out OTM’s leadership with her mystical energy, and background in indigenous ritual, percussion and vocalization. Her compassionate heart, attentive ear and motivational voice sparked rich levels of self-discovery, openness and security among the 40 participants at Omega last year. Her drumming and chants provided a cohesive soundtrack for the week’s process. In my classes I often play her celebratory “Jai Ma” – which she chanted as a gentle lullaby during our deep relaxation – during Sun Salutations and her ethereal “Savaasana” during Yoga Nidra.

Seane’s, Hala’s and Suzanne’s fusion of transformational Asana, psychological empowerment and liberating ritual are beyond compare for leadership development for Karma Yogis, Yoga Activists, Seva Yogis…whatever you choose to call someone who takes his or her yoga practice off the mat to be of service in their everyday world.

Through OTM’s intensive, any yogi who plays a role of service at their job, in their community and/or for their family will find the nourishment, rejuvenation and empowerment to do that work more sustainably. I hope to see you this March!

The early-bird discount for OTM’s March 2011 “Yoga, Purpose & Action” Intensive is available through Saturday, January 22nd!  Visit www.flowyogacenter.com to register – payment plans are available.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Holly’s blog, describing how ongoing mentorship by OTM leaders encourages her leadership growth, empowers her yoga teaching and sustains her service work.

Part 1: http://www.welcomeomdc.com/2011/01/22/take-your-practice-off-the-mat/

 

Focus: Abundance – Growth December 10, 2010

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. – Dorothy Field, 1930s Musical Lyricist

When I was around 6 years old, my mom would drive my sisters and I to a farm outside of DC for horseback riding lessons. A few weeks into our series, a horse threw me to the dirt! I remember bouncing along the ground (I was a chubby little gal), standing up, brushing myself off, and getting right back on the horse – before my teacher or mom could give that standard warning, “If you don’t get back on the horse, you’ll never ride again.” At that young age, I instinctively knew that getting back on the horse was my only option.

So, as I navigate the “throws” of life – even those that take a longer recovery – deep down I know I’ll bounce back.

Reaching the close of 2010, I wish I could promise friends, students and readers that THIS IS THE LAST TIME I’ll share about the betrayal I experienced this past summer. I, myself, wish this will be the last time that I dredge up that pain in this blog. The positive? Each time I write about the pain, I inevitably write about the healing and growth.

Thankfully I’ve been programmed that way from a very young age!

You must know that you can swim through every change of tide.  – This morning’s Yogi Tea bag message.

It feels like everywhere I turn these days, writers, teachers and songs are encouraging me to drop my guard and jump into life with abandon. I’d love to. And I appreciate the encouragement! But the truth is, I’m terrified.

Fears related to the summer’s emotional trauma (and its related past-trauma triggers) are bubbling up again for a few reasons. Lately I’ve received invitations to connect with human beings. (Go figure!) A little romance, some friendships. Gratefully, despite (or perhaps due to?) my history as a trauma survivor, deep in my heart, I adore humans, humanity and humanness. In addition, with 6 months between the summer’s emotional shell shock and today’s invitations, my trust in others is gradually reawakening.

So as new life beckons, I simultaneously feel like jumping in…and running away.

I have been taught – and so I believe – that there is great value in sharing about difficulty and the process of surviving it. Not just for my own release and rebirth, perhaps also for someone who has gone or might go through something similar. So here goes. And maybe, this will be the last time.

Who says I can’t be free
From all of the things that I used to be
Rewrite my history –
Who says I can’t be free?
– John Mayer

Falls from horses were not the only dangers of my childhood.  My family household was chaotic and violent, driven by addiction and emotional illness.  Through a certain age, I found solace in music and god.  I wrote and performed songs (escape), often sang myself to sleep (comfort) and craved spiritual experience (protection).  At the same time, I existed in a state of self-preservation and readiness – prepared for the sky to fall at any moment.  Witnessing the model of my three older sisters, who frequently ran away from home, I kept a small night bag packed with pajamas and toiletries, in case I ever had to run.

Eventually, the false strength of self-reliance and isolation won out over the gentle support of god and music.  I took care of myself and often had to play other family-members’ roles.  I learned to construct elaborate lies about the screaming fights, ambulances, lateness to school and other troubles.  And for relief from the hiding and responsibility, my own addictions kicked in by age 11.

My parents are not to blame.  The inevitable fallibility of lineage shaped them as parents, and they did their best with what they had.  As did my sisters, whose only choice was to protect themselves and therefore grow apart from each other and me.  Although I was resentful toward my parents beyond my college years, I eventually grew to see the bigger picture, and soulfully love and appreciate Mom and Dad for all they offered.

I share this family background to illustrate how it informed my adult life.  Self-reliance, isolation and addiction do not nurture “normal” maturity!  Poor decisions led to dangerous situations and more trauma.  My gravitation back toward spiritual reliance began around Easter of 1990 after I hit an emotional and physical bottom while living in New Orleans.  That summer I would teach myself to meditate by focusing on one sense at a time.  This was the beginning of my relationship with the present moment, with “what is,” and with inner peace.

Some believe we are here to work out our past karma.. i need to remind myself that karma is not punishment.. just consequence. – Ricky Tran, Yoga Teacher

For the next twelve years, I sought personal wellness – and to learn how to relate well with others.  I continued meditation, started practicing yoga (yay!), used therapy, experimented with different religious and spiritual traditions, changed my diet and pretty much tried anything that might make me feel better.  Despite my best intentions, I also continued manifesting different shades of the violence and chaos of my childhood.

Continued active addiction, associated behaviors and unaddressed past trauma cemented me in old patterns.  Not until 2002, when I had a moment of clarity and sought help for addiction, did life crack open and truly begin to change.

Our December focus is Abundance. I am sharing honestly about my past because for a long time, I felt ashamed of my journey of stumbles. Now I believe I have nothing to hide. And because of my own transformation, I have faith in every person’s ability to recover from the serious mistakes or conditions of their past.  All it takes is the willingness to ask for help. Abundant growth is possible for all.

Today, all of my positive influences from the past 20 years work in-concert to encourage productive relationships, wellness of body, mind and spirit, productive relationships and serenity.  At the same time, just like for everyone else on this Earth, life happens.  Sometime life throws some curve balls.  And sometimes we get hit by a pitch.

I was hit by a pitch this past summer.  The man I’d been seeing for 6 months revealed something shocking that he’d been hiding.  Not only did the lying hurt horribly, in addition, the nature of what he was hiding could have endangered my own well-being, and, it triggered much of my past emotional trauma. Sadly, I lost trust and love for everyone.  I lived in fear.

Thankfully, the week before that bomb was dropped, I had emerged from a week-long Off The Mat Into The World training at the Omega Institute. The “Yoga, Purpose & Action” Intensive taught self-inquiry, collaboration and activation as tools for cultivating a more sustainable approach to service work. These became the exact tools that I used to trudge through the relationship shock.  I didn’t run, I didn’t hide, I didn’t go back to addictive ways.

Despite the fear, I forced myself to reach out (ugh), and I got support (ahhh).

Always do what you are afraid to do. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Poet & Essayist

At one point in the Fall, I was catapulted into an impenetrable state of anger and disgust after unexpectedly running into my ex. It broke my heart to harbor such negative emotions, when all I yearned for is to love and trust human beings again.  I gained counsel with Father Tom Ryan – a Catholic Paulist priest and Kripalu yoga teacher – who was firm with me regarding solutions.  He made concrete suggestions for ritualizing the transformation of anger/disgust into forgiveness/compassion.

While I was integrating those suggestions into my practices, I had a session with Polarity Therapist Lois Clinton, whose nurturing and skillful treatment awakened a sense of safety and trust. It’s hard to describe how Polarity Therapy works. In my experience, we identified certain grounding resources (i.e. deep three-part yogic breathing), constantly redirected to the present moment by working with open eyes (vs. getting stuck in the past with closed eyes), and discharged physically stuck trauma (i.e. vibrating hands, clearing lungs).  It was subtle and yet powerful!

With the clarity from my session with Lois, I followed through with one of Fr. Ryan’s suggestions. I wrote a brutally honest letter to my ex – with absolutely no intention to send it.  On the New Moon of Diwali, I burned the letter.  Sure enough, as I watched the ashes and scraps of paper float down a swirling, swollen creek, the negativity was released, I felt a thousand pounds lighter, and the shift toward complete healing was profound.

I couldn’t be more grateful to all of the teachers, healers and advisers who stepped up to the plate to support me through this tough time.  Decades of being willing and open toward these liberating processes have opened doors to immense transformation and emotional sobriety. When life happens, I am fortunate to have a huge tool box of resources, practices and people who support me through anything – from celebrations to disappointments.

Trauma is a fact of life; so is resilience.  – Hala Khouri, Off The Mat Into The World Co-founder

Earlier I mentioned that there are a few reasons my fears were recently triggered.  This week, I attended a spiritual gathering where the guided meditation was about forgiveness. Immediately, I acknowledged the potential risk of participating, and decided to stay anyway. The instructor asked us to recall an instance where someone hurt us…and then, to offer that person forgiveness.  It was tough.  I had to open my eyes to see I was safe, surrounded by (yes) trusted spiritual fellows.  I could feel my entire body vibrating.  Tears flowed.  I wasn’t sure if I was forgiving or releasing.  But I knew I needed to stay in the process.

Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try. – Ryan Bingham, Songwriter

This morning, I was struck with a note of sadness about the summer situation. I am grateful to say that, for the first time in months, I did not connect this morning’s emotion with all the sad traumas of my past.  It was, simply and specifically, sadness about the loss of my relationship and how much it hurt to be lied to.

Regarding the fresh fears from social invitations…I am rigorously honest with each person, letting them know the shakiness I feel about connecting, particularly romantically.  One day my heart will be ready to try again. I know that I must make myself humanly vulnerable again.  I’m just not there yet.  But I will be.  I will bounce back.

You will not find a spiritual master that will suggest you play it safe, or a sacred text that advises you to avoid pain at all costs. – Max Strom, Yoga Teacher and Writer

To me, some “self-help” messages sound like the old idiom “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  That harkens of my childhood of packed bags and lonely songs.  But when I read firmly encouraging words like Max’s, I yearn so deeply for love, trust and emotional freedom that I cry.

Thank you gentle teachers and butt-kickers, skillful healers and wise advisers for the abundant encouragement, inspiration and motivation you have so generously shared throughout my life.  You assure me that all experiences – throws, stumbles and curve balls of all kinds – are opportunities for growth.

I am scared. And I am growing, too.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Life on Life’s Terms August 8, 2010

I am stretching here.

And I don’t mean stretching my body.  I am stretching to find a yogic approach to what I want to share this evening, after months without blogging or sending Yoga Updates to my mailing list or reaching out much at all, really.

Somewhere around March I started falling behind on my writing and outreach.  Thankfully May and June’s Eight Limbs class focus seemed to herd my wandering thoughts and I made it through a 2nd update about Asana & Pranayama.  Then, my motivation dropped off the face of the earth.  “Things” started happening.

Since the Spring I (in no particular order):

  • Started a job
  • Left that job
  • Attended the Off The Mat Into The World intensive and leadership training with Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling
  • Visited the ER with chest pains (all is OK now)
  • Felt an earthquake for the first time ever (amazing)
  • Taught percussion and yoga to grades Pre-K through 6 at the Levine School of Music’s six-week summer camp
  • Battled a two-week respiratory infection (summer camp is germy!)
  • Taught up to 23 classes per week, including studio shifts, sub opps, youth classes, private clients and the University of Maryland football team (Go Terps! – my alma mater)
  • Celebrated my 45th birthday with a beautiful community of children, yogis, musicians and dear ones
  • Learned of a horrible deception in my romantic partnership
  • Tried my hardest – one day at a time – to stay in that relationship
  • Ended that relationship

Life has pitched a number of serious curve balls in the midst of a beautifully bountiful time and I am wiped out.   But I’ve been “holding it together.”  I remember once when I was feeling low, a friend scolded, “You should read your own blog!”  Tonight, as I read back through my Spring entries, I don’t recognize the deeply motivated, connected and inspired Holly.  She’s been getting through the days, weeks, months by flinging herself into teaching.

It could be worse.

Thankfully, last week, I started experiencing complete dissociation.  The reason I’m grateful is that I needed the wake up call.  The stress of my relationship issues had become so huge that I would get through half a yoga class and not remember teaching.  I would get through a day of summer camp and need a nap.  The break-up was essential.  This past Saturday was the day.

It’s hard to describe how lost I feel.  The shock of the deception, the nature of the lie, the weeks of earnestly exploring whether I could stay in the relationship and now the loss of that relationship have left me profoundly exhausted.  Now that the relationship is over, I crave rejuvenation.  I’m yearning to be taken care of, to join a synagogue, to sleep for endless hours, to hibernate, and so on – a wide range of reactions.

And now that summer camp is over, I need to look for more work!  Plus, I owe you some blogs.  I have about a thousand drafts, about Yoga & Baseball, about Yoga & Football, about the final four of the Eight Limbs, about my Uncle Bill’s yoga-esque devotion to service, about so many things.

I realize that this post is a bit rambling and more journal-like than usual.  Primarily, I wanted to get honest.  And let you know where I’ve been.  I’m not teaching anything here; I don’t have a Sutra to quote, a Limb to cite or a Chakra to work.  If anything, I’d like to be taught how I can rehabilitate from this painfully debilitating time.  Let’s see which teachings reveal themselves.

That’s it for now.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace.

P.S. – Duh, it’s hitting me that one of the primary teaching in all of this is how that 8-day Off The Mat Into The World training seasoned me to trudge through this break-up discernment phase and then seek nurturing once the split was behind me…among other things, I’m sure.