Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Staying Warm

Having lived in subtropical Asia during the winter months for the past four years, I haven’t experienced the likes of holly or heralding angels, fudge or shopping frenzies, Claus or Christmas, in quite some time. And, I most definitely have not experienced cold snaps, preferring to soak my soul in the sun of India’s southwest coast. Life’s Mystery recently turned the tides, and this holiday season, I find myself back in the U.S.A.

Now, a number one focus of mine is embracing the colder temps while learning new ways of warming up. In addition to the physical realm of cold, it is also easier in the darker months to become emotionally cold, lonely and isolated. It’s a hard time to get moving – literally – and to take the initiative and reach out for fellowship. Candles, twinkling lights, and friends – these are the sources of warmth we can turn to.

Here are five fun ways I’ve found to raise my physical and emotional temperature. May they also warm the cockles of your heart!

1. Run, Run Rudolph

Get the heart beating and the blood pumping. Even 15-20 minutes jogging in the neighborhood, along the beach, or in the park will improve your warmth, raise your metabolism, and boost your mood. Tip: Lay out your running clothes and shoes the night before. Dress like a layered onion with hat, gloves, fleece, and leggings. Aim for 4-5 times a week. Enjoy noticing the difference between a cold and crisp day and a run between the raindrops. Breathe in prana, chlorophyll-rich air, and light. Photosynthesize yourself.

2. Light Up Your Life

Burn candles, even when it’s not a special occasion. Bring a candle into your cubicle or office space. Glance away from the computer screen and look at the bright flame every now and then to exercise the eyes and mix up the brain chemistry. A candle flame will also keep your immediate space a few degrees warmer AND suck moisture from the air if you’re in a damp room in a rainy area (as will incense). Tip: Trader Joe’s offers a lovely pack of six Danish-style, white and off-white taper candles for only $2.79. These are especially nice as they are self-extinguishing, and made of non-toxic soy.

3. Make Play Dates - and Keep Them

It’s hard to get moving and visit friends across town when it’s dark out so early, and cold and windy to boot. Bundle up and go see your buddies. Make a date to go to an art opening, an off-Broadway or off-Market theater piece, or tea house. Tip: Consider ringing a college pal or coworker you haven’t seen for years. Reminiscing is a great way to warm the heart and get the endorphins flowing; somehow, seeing them on Facebook doesn’t have the same face-to-face warming effect.

4. Shake It, Baby

Go dancing! Forget all the nonsense about it being too late to go out (I'm sure you can manage until ten or eleven), or not having the right outfit, or not feeling sexy enough to boogie. Any live band will do – buy a ticket and go with a girlfriend or gang. It’s not so important the circumstances: what’s important is that you get yourself on the dance floor and shake your thang. Move the body. There are plenty of bands who would love YOUR presence out there, even if you’re shimmying on your own in the corner. A night out dancing – it’s not just for clubbers or 20-somethings. Tip: The last three nights out, I’ve been gifted with free CD’s from the band or DJ. A fun souvenir, indeed.

5. Miso Happy

Buy a tub of miso and regularly make yourself a mug of soothing soup. Put a huge dollop (a heaping tablespoon) in a colorful mug and dissolve it up in boiling water – don’t boil the miso directly, though. Put a dab of ghee or butter in there, too. Add a pinch of sea salt, and a teeny pinch of paprika and/or cayenne. Sip it any time of day – it’s very nourishing and warming. Not only that, miso has been proven to detox the cells and keep your immune system up. Tip: Try Miso Master Mellow White, available at most health food stores. Experiment with adding dried seaweed strips or flakes.

Stay warm and bright, give and receive lots of hugs, and snuggle with animals, too!


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Erin Reese is a freelance writer, editor, and astro-intuitive healer. She works remotely with clients all over the world. Find out more on her magsite,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Healing In the Non-Linear Now

Speaking with a friend last night, the subject of reliving past trauma came up. We marveled that even if events occurring in present time are hardly traumatic or dramatic, we are often triggered and plunged into a state of fear, anxiety, rage, and especially shock.

When we are in shock, there is often no traceable, ‘good’ reason for it showing up in present time. Here are a few scenarios, for example:

- Your girlfriend calls and asks when the two of you can go shopping for a Christmas tree together. She says she has the whole weekend free and wants to spend the entire time with you, baking cookies, wrapping presents, and snuggling. For no ‘reason’ at all, you freak out and seize up. Your old wounds of being smothered are tripped up.

- You live abroad in a totally foreign environment for several years, in a completely different cultural mindset. You return to your home nation, now immersed in a western, materialist world where the focus is on having and doing, rather than being. You find yourself incapable of functioning, wondering if something may be severely wrong with you. Why are you paralyzed in this infrastructure while everyone else seems to be getting along so ‘normal’?

- You’re sitting in a restaurant with old friends enjoying a great night out, laughing, talking, eating excellent food. The rambunctious party seated next to your table suddenly kicks it up to a particularly boisterous, drunken gear, and the smell of their liquor of choice – scotch whiskey – starts wafting over to your corner in gusts. Your olfactory center is triggered from a dark time in the long ago past. Like a fast-wilting flower, you are suddenly no longer having fun with your friends. While your buddies are still joking and carrying on with joy as before, you now feel depressed, lonely, and isolated – for no ‘reason.’

What do these three vastly different scenarios have in common? Shock.

How can you tell if you’re in shock? For starters, your internal GPS system completely blows out. You can’t think clearly, you may not be able to form a coherent sentence or come up with a clear answer. Someone might ask you a normal question and you won’t be able to get the words out. Your heart beat could go off the charts, or your palms might sweat. Extreme tension may arise in the body, especially in the gut or solar plexus. You could experience searing pain in the sciatic nerve.

Often, we turn freezing cold: when any animal goes into shock, the life force energy congeals itself in the deepest center of the body in order to preserve and protect, while the appendages are cut off from warmth.

Shock can be set off simply by the way a lover ends a phone call. The way a boss signs off an email. The way holiday shoppers prance around you at the mall with Christmas music blaring in your ears. The way a man looks you up and down as you board a bus. The way a seemingly normal discussion of finances with your mate sends you into an irrational, reactionary state.

None of these situations directly has anything to do with what is happening “now.” It’s what they are triggering in you from the past – or potentially even the future (intuition). Your animal instincts are up. It’s fight or flight, to which I now add – freeze. Fight, flight, or freeze.

The Blazing Flame of Awareness

How to come out of it? Interestingly, the solution is also an f-word: FEEL. The answer is to feel.

When we go to the place in the body where we most experience the seizing up, we automatically bring warmth via the light, the blazing flame of awareness. We go where the trauma, tension, lock-up or quiver is located, and observe what exactly is happening there.

That’s the first step. The second step, which is key (and easily avoided by those who prefer to stay in their intellect or spiritual superiority), is to FEEL the uncomfortable, nauseous, stuck, painful, fluttering, spinning, gut-wrenching, or even indescribable sensations that you’ve got going on in there. You might be surprised: there could even be pleasure, or a sense of soaring or floating. Usually, there are layers, and we keep going in, and in, and in to uncover until there is nothing left but spaciousness.

Feeling the sensations on a body level (see also bioenergetics and somatic therapies) brings healing awareness to a happening that made us lock up and freeze at some point in the non-linear now. Will we know or find out exactly what specific incident occurred? Maybe. It’s not important, however. The important thing is to stay with it – and breathe.

Whether we take five and excuse ourselves from our desk or the dinner table, head to the washroom and find out what’s going on in the body, or we have half an hour to lie in bed at home and feel the fear in the body – we must give it our attention. Otherwise, the shock rules us and we are zombies, the walking wounded, and cut off from our essential self. Traumatized and trapped, suffering animals.

But what about the external people, places, and things that are triggering you? What do we do about them, you ask?


You sit there and breathe into the stone in your solar plexus or that sciatic nerve spasm arising (and stretch, and drink water!). You feel that heart beat so ferociously it seems your chest might explode. And breathe. As the hologram of an individual that you are, you’re delivering awareness to the point in the past or future where the actual event, trauma, trigger happens.

You’ve just given yourself a huge helping of natural healing – in the present, in the Non-Linear Now.

Erin Reese is a freelance writer, editor, and astro-intuitive healer. She works remotely with clients all over the world. Find out more on her magsite,

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gift of Intuition

“Tell me how you did it!!” read the subject line of an email received yesterday from an Italian friend living in Bali.

I’d given Andrea an intuitive reading in India about nine months ago, and I'd foreseen that he’d be in a stable, new home for the long haul, as of this very month. Turns out, he signed a lease on his Balinese dream house on November 1, and this super skeptic was now totally impressed. Andrea was baffled as to how "I perfectly predicted his new home." And, of course, he has more questions! He wants to know when and where he will meet The Love of His Life. And he wants to know when he’ll start earning six figures per annum.

Fine with me, I say. I will consult the stars and cards and see what the Divine Mystery reveals for him. I can’t control when or whether the information will come available to him through me, but I can certainly check the cosmic weather report.

The Cosmic Weather

Astrology and tarot are the tools I use to access the power of intuition – that grand ability to grok the entire picture in one go.

Like Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, linear time collapses upon itself in the space where the past is the present is the future – and some of us humans seem to be equipped to go there. It is the intuitive whole mind that can see beyond the seen. It is mysterious, and a gift.

Last weekend, I was conducting a career reading via Skype, and I kept seeing drinks – glasses of bubbly and wine. “Drinks!” I told her. “I keep seeing lots of drinks – fizzy, alcoholic beverages.” Turns out, the client was about to have a promising interview with a beverage industry magazine.

“How are you doing this??” the client asked. “Like, I know you use tarot cards and all that. But, I mean, HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?”

Good question, I thought. That is a very good question. Perhaps one of the main reasons it works, is that I don’t question it.

I explained to my client that I’ve been highly intuitive my whole life. I began cultivating the gifts in my late teens, beginning with awareness of energy and that which lies beyond the seen. A psychic-healer aunt introduced me to the realm of tarot divination when I was seventeen, and I began studying the art and science of astrology in earnest at the age of twenty.

Over two decades of study and practice in mysticism and transpersonal psychology, the intuitive gifts increased. And, it appears that a dozen years of yoga asana and meditation served to further prepare this body-mind vehicle, culminating in a fundamental psychic awakening.

About six years ago, my third eye (the sixth chakra) stretched and grew and popped open- whoop there it is! There it was, my ajna chakra – wide awake like a big glowing bindi, looking around to see what it could see. And the divine marching orders were clear: You Must Read for Others, Young Woman. I couldn’t help myself anyway: I was a person-sized antenna, buzzing like a lightning bolt, naturally higher than a kite, and one of the only things that would peel me off the ceiling was to read for others.

I never “thought” about becoming an Intuitive. Like everything else that involves Grace and the Divine (which is, in fact, everything), it simply happened

How You Can Cultivate Your Own

One of the simplest ways to grow your own intuitive power is to make a commitment to listen to your insights – your hunches, your gut feelings – every single time, without fail.

Say you’re driving home from work, and out of nowhere, you get a flash about taking an alternate route. No real reason – but it feels like a pull. Your job is to do it – take the other street. You may not find out the reason why, but that’s OK. You’ve just given your intuition the message that you are listening, you are receiving the messages, and you are welcoming the insight. The intuition grows as a faculty as trust is deepened.

When I began this very practice over twenty years ago, I committed to listening NO MATTER WHAT. If my gut told me to stop in a shop and try on green sneakers, I’d do it. This is both a training period for your third eye – and an adventure.

The more you do it, the stronger the messages will be. It will, over time, become second nature. Your creative inclinations, whether you’re an artist, writer, or a project manager, will increase as you learn to sense the waves’ motions, and ride them. Understanding and heeding currents of energy is being intuitive – it’s a big part of what makes certain stock speculators ‘lucky.'

Intuition is a businesswoman's best friend.

Interested in a reading with Erin? Click here for more information.

Give Some Intuition this Holiday Season!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Yoga of Astrology

The Yoga of Astrology helps you to come home to your Self.
There are no ‘bad’ parts of you. All is essential.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj, meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘to integrate.’ How might this union apply to the realm of astrology? It’s quite simple, actually: a birth chart is a snapshot – the snapshot – of the heavens at the exact time, date, and place of your birth. It’s your unique cosmic picture. No two people, not even twins, have exactly the same chart. We are like snowflakes – absolute individuals. Your birth chart is a gift from the universe, a window to the soul.

Astrology is both an art and a science. It takes extreme care and technical skill to master the mathematics and analytics needed to properly interpret a birth chart. But technical prowess is only half the story.

An effective stargazer must also be a highly intuitive human, gifted with the heart and soul of seeing the picture in its entirety. In short, the best astrologers can see the UNION of the person with their highest Self. She will be able to explain in truly useful terms exactly how you can integrate body, mind, and soul as a whole.

Why do I offer the Yoga of Astrology as a service? Twenty years ago, I heeded an undeniable inner calling and took up the craft. For years following, I voraciously studied the art of the stars. I found the nuances of the language to come automatically to me – as if I was literally downloading it from the ethers. My favorite used bookstore couldn’t keep astrological texts on the shelf; I’d devour them so fast.

In fact, my own birth chart reveals a natural talent for stargazing: I’m a cosmic February Water Bearer with Sun conjunct both the Midheaven and the Moon’s North Node (points of profession and destiny), all in the sign of the Aquarius, whose ruler Uranus governs the field of astrology. (Click chart to enlarge.)

Quickly, I discovered I could help you by sharing my gift: I can see YOU as a whole being – a complete mandala of uniquely balanced components. You are already perfect, whole, and unified – you simply need someone to help you see it, and that’s the astrologer’s role. I can help you understand how the you of You fits into the larger Self of the Universe, revealing strengths, weak spots, points that can be played up and areas that call for your attention. Through transit analysis (my particular passion, being a future-oriented Aquarian), together we can help you make decisions and determine timing of events – what is likely to happen, when, and how.

The Yoga of Astrology helps you to come home to your Self. There are no ‘bad’ parts of you. All is essential.

In India, Ramesh Balsekar (1917-2009), my own advaita (non-duality) philosophy Teacher, held a firm view of astrology. Ramesh was noted for cutting through the crap with a sharp sword of truth, often harshly. When I first brought my work to his attention, I half-expected the renowned Jedi jnani-sage would toss astrology in the trash heap as a silly, useless concept.

On the contrary: Ramesh said, “Astrology itself is 100% accurate. How much of the gift an individual astrologer has been given, no one can know.” Later, when I brought up lingering questions as to whether practicing astrology for my clients was a beneficial use of my energy, he looked at me pointedly, eyes blazing with light, and commanded, “You can help a lot of people!”

I got it. My beloved Teacher wanted me to use my skills for the benefit of others. And out of respect and out of love, I offer the Yoga of Astrology to you.

Please email me, or simply click on the Astro-Intuitive link for more information on my offerings and prices.


When the British astronomer Sir Edmund Halley
supposedly spoke deprecatingly about
astrology to Sir Isaac Newton,
Newton said to have responded,
"I have studied the matter [astrology]. You, Sir, have not."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Road Notes: Long-Haul Flights

We're coming up on the holiday season, and for many of us, that means: more travel, trips, and take-off!

I jotted these suggestions down during my last long-haul flight from Frankfurt to SFO, with you in mind - those readers who hit the road more than most, especially those who roam coast to coast or opt for foreign climes.

Here are a few helpful tips to bolster happiness levels during long-haul flights. Enjoy!

1. Get the Support You Need
Yesterday, I was chatting via Skype with a friend who is about to take off for a month's stay in Vienna (yes, I know - drool with envy). This is a good 14-hr+ intercontinental haul across the friendly skies - one I'm well familiar with. And so, looking out for her well-being, I instant messaged her:

"Got your support hose?"

To which she replied:

"What? Am I that old?"

I had to laugh. It had nothing to do with age - this suggestion of donning super-powered panty-hose pre-takeoff. For any flight over four hours (e.g. from west to east coasts, from England to India, from the U.S. to Europe, etc.), I suggest wearing support hose (men, you can call them 'manny hose,' or just opt for the special "flight sock" knee-highs.

The trip from California to New Delhi has me in the air for well over 24 hours. By the time I reach India, I have elephant legs - and it's downright scary. My swollen feet actually stretched out a pair of brand new sandals to the point that they never fit well again. Even after elevating my legs up the wall for an hour, my ankles were still bloated to the extreme, for over three days.

It's a vanity thing, yes, but it's also a safety issue - there is a syndrome called 'deep vein thrombosis' that one is made susceptible to. This is where flight attendants have learned: wear those support ("compression") hose.

I found a fabulous pair of black hose actually made by Lufthansa in a mall in Frankfurt. I'm sure there are several options at local drugstores or department stores. If you can't find the 'flight hose,' then just opt for a top-end pair of L'eggs support hose. Be sure they are snug enough to hold you in, but not too snug as it could get downright uncomfortable on that long haul trip to have an elastic band cutting into your waist.

After years of having freaky swollen feet and ankles on intercontinental flights, I've now found a solution. Much, much better.

2. Drink Up, Buttercup
Pre-hydrating is a trick I learned when I used to train for marathons: start chugging the water 24-48 hours BEFORE takeoff. For distance runners, this is important as one doesn't want to be faced with a full bladder and making pitstops mid-race, but you need all that hydration in your system - so you gotta get your drinkin' in the days before the event.

For long-distance flyers, downing several extra liters of agua the days before your flight can make a whole world of difference. Nowadays, anyway, you can't bring your own bottles of water on-board - so I'm constantly hitting up the stewards in the galley for more, more, more. The amount that they come around to offer in the little Dixie cups is not enough to sufficiently hydrate on a 9 hr+ haul. And there is nothing that helps more than proper hydration to get through jetlag, and prevent you from getting sick. (Bonus Tip: Drink a few Emergen-C packets or plunk a couple Airborne in water before and during the flight.)

3. Give Yourself a Hand
Be sure to take a small-sized tube (carry-on regulation size) of ultra-rich hand creme on-board with you. Every time you wash your hands on flight, use the creme. Might be helpful to moisturize your face more often, too.

4. Got Legs? Know How to Use Them
I'm only 5'9", but I need to stretch, and today's Economy Class cabins are "knees-to-chin" cattle-call, with the meal tray basically thwacking you in the face if the person in front of you decides to recline his or her chair all the way back. So, I take whatever measures I can to ensure I get more leg room.

First, I take an aisle seat - knees and tootsies have more play room. Aisle seats are also good because I'm constantly up and down to the loo (drinking all that water!) and don't want to climb over my neighbor. Getting up all the time isn't so bad, since it gives me more mobility and a chance to stretch my legs as I wander up and down the cabin. It's always interesting anyway - to see how everyone else is snoring and drooling away as we're over the northern Atlantic.

Second, try to get to the airport a bit early, and ask the folks at the check-in counter if the Exit Row is available. So long as you are over 18, speak English well, and are willing to help out in case of disaster, you qualify for at least another foot or two of leg room! Much better for sprawling out for a long doze.

A note of caution though: Be sure to ask the check-in folks if the Exit Row is directly in line with the TOILETS (they often are). Eek. Fourteen hours - that's a lot of toilet activity. The last time this happened, I had to contend with the smell of urine wafting by whenever a door opened a few feet away. Not only that, my oodles of beautiful dance-floor-large leg space in front of me ended up doubling as a queuing area for those waiting for the toilets. Ick.

5. It's Entertainment, Enjoy the Ride
I'm not one of those people who are strict with myself about any aspect of a long-haul flight experience. Sure, I try to get some sleep, but if the movies on offer are good, I watch 'em all. I don't care. I don't watch many movies or television at all in my daily life, so a 14-24 hr flight is a great time to get my fill! Gee, when else might I view a B-grade Queen Latifah or J. Lo flick, or opt for Horton Hears a Who!, right? And, heck, the latter was actually pretty darn sweet.

I also eat almost everything that's served up. So much of it is junk, I know (except for some great airlines like Air France where it would be beneath their very cultural etiquette to serve anything less than tres excellent pain et vin). But how often do I actually eat a Mars Bar (United Airlines) or indulge in a mini-flask of red? I'm paying for it, after all - and a whole heck of a lot - and I'm enjoying it.

I pretend I'm 'fine dining' even in coach - I'm a captive audience, I'm certainly not going anywhere anytime soon - so I get into 'being served,' knowing I'll make up for it later by eating uber-healthy and organic. But today, I drink the coffee, slurp the wine, and eat the strange confection on the side that they call carrot cake. Yes, I know all that's counter to my 'hydrate and support' suggestions. I never proclaimed perfection. And besides, I'm on holiday.

It's all part of the adventure. Remember the first air trips you took? Back when it was fun and they didn't strip search you before you boarded? Try to recapture a bit of that spirit. Treat yourself like someone special who's on vacation (because you are, remember?).

Have a good time. And while you're at it, see if you can actually make a United flight attendant laugh. These days, they could use it.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Yoga, Travel, and Soul

Check out my Yoga page on the Travel and Soul magsite here, where you can also find articles and information about private teaching sessions.

I’m being guided to offer small group yoga and meditation retreats. Our retreat will focus on helping you establish a very simple practice that you can maintain in the comfort of your own home. Perfect for meditators, stay-at-home parents, beginners, or ‘restarts.’ The asana is based on hatha flow and yin yoga – a passive practice which opens up the energetic nadi (rivers) channels of the body-mind while physically lubricating the joints. The meditation is based on vipassana insight – sitting and observing – as well as inquiry. The underlying awareness is advaita (non-duality) which cannot be expressed in words – it is a knowing that arises in the heart and can be transmitted. If you already have a steady asana practice, this retreat will help you still the mind and go deeper within.

Interested? Let me know how many individuals would be participating. Also, I need to know what works best for your schedule: a three-day weekend, a two-day intensive, or a one-day retreat. Please inform me of the general dates you have available and if you have a location in mind. Thank you.


Your fearless explorer is – for a limited time! – back in the U.S.A.

It’s beautiful here in California. I’m so grateful for the sunshine, the fresh produce, the fresh air. I miss India – of course – but She is in my heart, always… It’s good to be a gypsy: one gets to fully employ the adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Housesitter Available: I am available for long-term housesit, pet-sit, garden-sits. Please feel free to let others in your community know.


I’ve been translated! Sprechen Sie Deutsch? My recent interview “Revealing the Soul’s Intelligence,” with soul-psychotherapist Ursula Kirti Grimm, has been translated into German! For a fascinating discussion of non-dual therapy and healing, check out the article in German here: Entfaltung der seelischen Intelligenz

Click here to download the English PDF.
If you are in Europe, you may reach Kirti directly to discuss her individual work as well as her ongoing Soul Groups.

Om Shanti,

Please feel free to forward to interested parties.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Earth Yoga

When our energetic roots go deep enough, we can fly even higher.

As a chill-susceptible woman accustomed to tropical climes, I am thanking the gods and goddesses for a warmer-than-average Indian Summer on the west coast of California.

Bring the heat, I say. Dose me, sweet Sun, with vitamin D and stoke the inner fires now in preparation for the coming cold.

It’s time for Earth Yoga.

With Surya’s golden rays still dappling the grass, penetrating the bones deeply, it is time to set the asana mat aside while we can and get down and dirty - body direct on the ground - with our yoga. Find a patch of sunlight on a lawn – mid-morning or mid-afternoon is best – and send your energetic roots down deep into the earth for some real healing.

I’ve always preferred to practice asana in Nature, especially on the beach. A few days ago, I was touched again at the brilliance of outdoor yoga. This particular day, I needed to get grounded, and quick. I’d been staying in San Francisco – lovely, to be sure – but I’d forgotten one of the main reasons I’d left the City four years ago: electromagnetic frequencies.

When you’re in a city, the sheer congestion of people, electricity, computers, radio and wireless, microwave, satellites, and other waves penetrate our system – especially if we’re in a location where we’re surrounded by antennas and there are lots of hills or structures bouncing waves right back into your brain. If you’re a highly-sensitive person, like me, it’s enough to make you super-scrambled. It can be quite disorienting, even painfully so.

One morning, after I’d been in the city for a week, I felt my third eye – the brain’s frontal lobe – totally clog up. It was like my forehead was filled with zip-zap substance, which translated into confusion and electrical fog. I couldn’t think clearly, for one. Then, the thoughts that started to come into my awareness were not my own. God knows, really, whose thoughts they were, with so much maya-mind stuff cluttering up the airwaves.

Finally, I realized, I was NOT GROUNDED. Even with breath awareness and regular exercise, I was like a live wire again. Oh, I remember THIS feeling! Psychic clutter alert! Get me into NATURE - now!

I marched myself over to the nearest urban park – a beautiful patch of green at the top of a sweet knoll on the city’s sunnier side – and sat my rear right down, right on the ground. Deep breath. The smell of freshly-cut grass. A whiff of soil. The feel of the sun – quite strong that day – piercing my skin. The soul soaking it all in.

AHHHHHHH….I closed my eyes, and started to “run energy,” up and down the spine, until I could finally get a clear column flowing, like a conduit, from the earth and out through the crown, and back down again, through the spinal column, down through the root chakra, the tailbone – deep, deep into the earth.

After about ten minutes, I felt a release of congestion from the head as the energy flowed like a river again. I was a big ol’, psychic beacon at the top of the hill – transmitting, receiving; receiving, transmitting – no longer ‘gunked up,’ stuck in the head. Going down, going down...

Much better, I determined, as I sauntered over to the playground and watched some daycare kids having a field day whooping it up with their sweet selves. Good. More grounding. Kids are really grounded.

Next, I hiked further up the hill and came upon a long-haired guy playing fetch with two adorable golden retrievers. The sunlight-colored dogs were half-brothers, frolicking with abandon. I gave both pups a good belly scratch and they smile-panted and lost themselves in ecstasy rolling around on the grass. Good. Animals are also grounding.

Last, I found a baseball field that was spiffy-manicured, no dogs allowed and hence no surprising ‘presents’ to step on, with the perfect balance of sun and shade.

Aha! I’d found it – my earth yoga oasis! My outdoor studio du jour. Didn’t even think twice about not having a mat – I was goin’ for the green grass itself. I bounded over the pitcher’s mound to the outfield lawn, tore off the tennies and dug the tootsies into center field. Oh, yeah…that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Out through the tiny chakras that lie on each sole, the feet poured electrical excess into the earth, and my soul purred as I plunged into a simple self-practice.

Starting out with a few yin passive poses, I soared through a short series of Surya Namaskar. From plank position – board-flat back – I chataranga’d down to the ground. Then, I deliberately let my forehead ever-so-slightly graze the earth – Bhooma Devi, Mother Earth. As my nose burrowed into the sweet grass, I took a deep inhale in through the nose, filling my lungs with healing prana, prana, prana.

Swooshing to push myself into upward dog, smiling face to the sky. In the delicious downward dog, all four appendages – two hands, two feet – sunk into the dirt, sucking it up – like little prana suction cups.

Post sun salutation, picking leaves of grass from my knees, inspired by the redwood grove canopy, I lingered long in tree poses. I mimicked the wind as I balanced and swayed my way into Natarajasana – Shiva’s graceful dancer’s pose. I finished with a few minutes of meditation and a very loud Oooooooommmmmmm that got even the ravens squawking in harmony. Complete, I could have meditated right there in center field all day.

Now, the body was supple, sultry and sweaty; grass-stained, good and gritty.

Now, the grounded mind could be – unfettered and free, calm and crystalline.

Smiling from the inside out, I opened my eyes and gazed with gratitude at this amazing yoga center – no-frills and free – founded right there, on the spot called “Earth.”

Om Shanti

I am considering offering a five-day yoga and meditation intensive for beginners or 'starting agains' (approx. three hours per day, non-residential) between Christmas and New Year's, December 27-31, in Marin. Seems like a fantastic way to prepare the 'ground' for the New Year, a New Beginning. Very small, six students. Might you be interested? Please reply so I know there's 'buzz.' Thanks, and namaste.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Remembering Ramesh on Mahasamadhi Day

All there is, is Consciousness...

Honoring my beloved advaita (non-duality) Teacher, Ramesh S. Balsekar with love, gratitude, and remembrance.

Guruji entered mahasamadhi, the ultimate re-union with Consciousness, one year ago, September 27, 2009.

Thank you, Guruji, for telling It like It Is.

You are one powerful Master - a Jnani warrior.
Your forever-grateful disciple,

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (left) and Ramesh Balsekar
Bombay (Mumbai), India
c. 1978

Ramesh S. Balsekar and Erin
Bombay (Mumbai), India

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thoughts Are Things: Pranayama

The simple act of watching the breath as it moves in and out of the nostrils, or as the abdomen fills and empties, does wonders for our peace of mind.

Observing the breath is a form of witnessing, and develops concentration and non-attachment, both of which enable us to remain present and calm, no matter what is whirling around us.

Even if a cyclone hits, or the energies of a particularly volatile Full Moon are swirling through our lives (as they are this week), if we are trained to go back to our breath, immediately, we are in the moment. From this place, we can handle most anything that comes our way.

This is the most basic form of pranayama: breath awareness.

Sri Krishna gives pranayama direction in the Bhagavad Gita (4.29):

Apane juhvati pranam

prane panam tatha pare

Prana panagati ruddhva pranayamaparayanah

“Yet others offer as a sacrifice the outgoing breath in the incoming, and the incoming in the outgoing, restraining the flow of the outgoing and incoming breaths, solely absorbed in the regulation of the life-energy.”

Thoughts Are Things

Prana is the vital force from which the entire universe is made. In prana’s gross manifestation, we have matter. In prana’s subtle manifestation, we have mind-stuff, or citta. A single thought is the subtlest form of prana.

Think about that: thoughts really ARE things!

We use the breath to practice controlling the very life-force itself, as breath is the form of prana nearest to our body-mind organism.

Swami Vivekananda, who played a huge part in introducing yoga to the west, explains that breathing is only one of the ways in which we get to the real pranayama, in which we become masters of all of creation. Perhaps this is the foundation of what we call ‘manifestation’ in our modern lingo.

Since the entire focus of yoga is calming the mind, a yogi works with the principle that there is a direct link between handling the breath and handling the mind. There are two major pranayama yoga schools to this end: hatha and Patanjali. In hatha pranayama, the emphasis is on holding the breath through force, whereas in Patanjali pranayam school the emphasis is on slow, deep, rhythmic breathing in order to calm the mind.

Nadi Shodhana: Balancing the Mind and Body

A key form of pranayama is nadi shodhana (nadi = channel; shodhana = purify). Nadi Shodhana is “alternate-nostril breathing.” It is a powerful and simple means of purifying and controlling prana. In Nadi Shodhana, we balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain by alternately stimulating the Ida, the female side (also known as “Chandra-nadi” or “Moon Channel”) and the Pingala, the male side (also known as “Surya-nadi” or “Sun Channel.”

In Patanjali pranayama, the practitioner may reach a natural suspension of breath, “kevala kumbhaka.” Patanjali writes, Chale vate chitam chalet, nischale vate nischalam bhavet, or “When breath moves, mind moves and when breath stops, mind stops.”

The sadhaka, after sufficient pranayama practice, is prepared to practice dharana (concentration). In dharana, the yogi works with prana further by focusing a single-pointed awareness on the object of concentration.

To me, the whole point of asana - physical yoga practice - is to prepare the body for meditation. And, the whole point of meditation as a sitting process is to be at peace and fully alert; the body-mind has a better opportunity then to grasp the true nature of reality. At this stage of understanding, there is no requirement for practices - they may come, they may go. The yogi, the sage, the master is at peace no matter what is happening.

Working with prana culminates at the time of a yogi’s death, or mahasamadhi: when it is time for departure, with great humility, the yogi brings all his prana between the eyebrows in the ajna chakra (third eye) and then departs from the physical body, obtaining mukti or final liberation.

Om Shanti

Friday, September 17, 2010

Welcome to India!

It's been too long, weather's getting cold, and so...

Feels like time for a little India action!

Turn up the volume, click play and view Full Screen,
or go straight to YouTube here.

From my heart to yours.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Erin Reese’s Top Ten Berlin

Bold Berlin, cultural and political center of Germany, is my Euro-home and base for the “Dreiecke” (triangle) of nations in which I find myself moving about on the planet.

As my heart desires and the weather requires, I bop back and forth between Europe, India, and the U.S. After having spent the better part of four years in subtropical climes, I have thin skin and have developed sheer Angst toward cold. I run from plummeting temperatures. Frankly, I flee. When the thermometer wavers around 15 degrees C, it’s “Get me back to India, I decree!”

But in the warmer summer months, now in Olde Europa, I can break out the short skirts and t-shirts. When the sun’s out, I smile, hop on the bike, and explore and enjoy Germany’s cosmopolitan capital. Eine Amerikanerin in Berlin.

For visitors to Germany who are keen on moving beyond the beer garden, polka und kitsch Romantic Road route, consider the following “Top Ten Berlin” highlights von your Travel and Soul Writer – mein Liebsten discoveries of die deutsche Haupstadt.

I’m quite certain you won’t find half of these in any guidebook.

1. The smell of the subway (U-Bahn)

Yes, smell. Though I am usually found above-ground, riding the bike around, there is a completely unique odor to the Berlin U-Bahn (Underground subway) system. The scent stirs up tremendous associations through the emotional memory of the olfactory, this unique mix of grime, grease, sweat, steel, and pulsing humanity. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The scent waves waft up through the street grates – odiferous gusts of Monroe dress-blowing wind.

Immediately upon receiving an inadvertent blast up the nose, I am plunged back into the first years after the Berlin Wall fell, in the early 1990’s. Freshly-reunited Berlin had an aura of Mad Max Meets Past – the real Wild East. The smell of the U-Bahn conjures up the open frontier of the newly-accessible former Communist East beyond the Wall, with twisted tango nights under the moonlight, illegal squats, and bizarre prostitutes. The U-Bahn was a cultural necessity, a part of ‘getting there.’

Loud beats and house music, Love Parade, a new bar in a former fruit and vegetable stand. All-night parties, discos opening at 6 a.m. to clubbers. Funky gallery openings and entire buildings turned inside out into art installations. All of these were accessed via a night ride on the U-Bahn.

2. Fernsehturm – Television Tower

This spacy, shiny, towering disco ball is a perfect geographical reference point in the city. When you spot the silvery, ominous orb, Berlin’s tallest structure and the fourth highest in Europe, you always know in which direction and how far you are from Alexanderplatz.

When I took German in school studied a bit of deutsche Kultur, my teacher referred to the Fernsehturm as “The Pope’s Revenge.” Why would it have such a funny name?

First, you must understand that the Communists prided the Fernsehturm and promoted its presence to East Berlin residents as a sort of highlight of modernity – as long as the imprisoned citizens had their eye on the glamorous TV Tower – sexy, shining, gleaming and symbolic of ‘the future’ – well, then, they wouldn’t feel like rebelling or wall-jumping, would they? They had TV and they had a symbol of the future – all they needed.

As you know, the Communists destroyed many aspects of church and spirituality, labeling religion as “weak.” The Fernsehturm became “The Pope’s Revenge,” because when the sun shines on the big disco ball at just the right angle, it creates a perfect illuminated cross. East Berliners, deprived of freedom and soul, could look up on sunny days and be reminded, deep in their hearts, that religion and Christ (for those who still believed) were still very much alive despite Communism’s attempt to bury them.

3. Tiergarten

The “Golden Gate Park” or “Central Park” of Berlin, the Tiergarten is a huge expanse of nature in the middle of the city (630 invaluable green acres) with running, walking, and biking trails, lakes and trees galore. Breathe deep – ah – and inhale via the lungs of the city center at this former game reserve.

4. Falafel

Found at any most any streetcorner in the small cafés known as “Döner Kebab.” Berlin is the largest Turkish city outside of Turkey. And the Turks know falafel, schwarma, and all that’s fit to stuff inside a pita. Cheap and best.

5. Strolling Down Huge Broad Boulevards and Vast Skies with Big Puffy White Clouds

Verboten (forbidden), I walk like an Indian milking cow directly in the streets of Berlin. Strolling down the middle of the grand boulevards is such a delight.

See, coming from India – we simply don’t understand sidewalks. There is so much more space in the middle of the street – why not walk there? The cars can easily swerve around to miss us. We get a much better view of the sky, the horizon. And, in the middle of the big road, there’s no one to compete with for room, right?

I also have to remind myself to stay stopped at the red light. Just today, in fact, a scowling Frau yelled at me, “Rot!!” when I scooted past the crossing when the light had just turned red, to which I replied, “Es ist keine Katastrophe.”

Ach, the rule-bearing nation. Everything functions perfectly. Which is nice. Except when when you’re waiting for the light to change with no car for kilometers in sight and it’s perfectly safe to take my life into my own hands and cross the damned street. Like an Indian. (Traffic light? What’s that?)

6. German Brot (Bread)

Fantastisch for the palate, Scheisse for my waistline. What to do? Enjoy. We don’t get bakers’ delights like this in India by any stretch of the imagination. When you’re completely burnt on chapatti and naan, it’s hard to resist. Kartoffelbrot, Sonnenblumenbrot, Bauerbrot. German bread is the best. Load it with Tomaten, Senf (mustard) and a chunk of Käse (cheese) and you’ve got a cheap eat picnic to drool for.

7. Birkenstocks

Oh… my… God… I have never known tootsies to be so happy. My first pair of Birkenstocks after all these years walking, walking, walking. It’s as if my feet have discovered arches for the first time. I’ve never felt so held in a pair of shoes. Not only that, but Birks are cheaper here in Germany where they are manufactured - almost half the U.S. price.

I highly recommend every man, woman, and child to try a pair. I know now why they are considered “hippie shoes.” Clearly, it is because there would absolutely be World Peace if every one wore them. We’d all be so comfortable, we’d never fight.

The first few weeks of my Birk-ownership, I actually couldn’t wait to go on a walk for any reason, just to feel the mini-orgasmic squeals of delight my feet would emit at every step. Who cares if you’re lookin’ Crunchy Granola Feet on the street when you're so darn happy?

8. Bicycle Bonanza

Berlin is all about the bike – when it’s not raining or snowing. Totally flat, with a bike-friendly awareness of car drivers – there’s no better way to get around the city, to a park, to a lake, to work. You can lug the bike on the subway or the S-bahn, no problem. Stay fit, save money, be happy.

Most every day I cycle symbolically back and forth between my central Mitte neighborhood located in the former East to the former West, crossing over the River Spree and over the rubble of the ruined Wall, and back again.

Berlin has been a terrific transition from the wild east of India, to the modern west. It’s a perfect, slow, symbolic reintegration, and a necessary one at that. I’ve found over the years that the ‘in your face’ and fast pace of Americana is a rough reentry. Berlin is a great buffer, and getting around on the bike is the way to love it.

9. Free Art!

Every Thursday night, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., Berlin’s best museums are FREE. This is a huge savings as the entry fee is usually about $15-20.00. I’ve soaked in the sights of western masters – quality art-food for my eyes, eyes that have only feasted on temples, gods and goddesses of Hinduism over the past years in India.

My favorite Berlin museum is the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) of modern paintings and sculpture, with works from approximately 1900-1945. Breathtaking. I turned the corner to come upon the wood carving of Max Ernst’s sculpture, “Capricorn” (see image) and literally let out a loud, spontaneous guffaw of awe.

I love masterful modern art!

10. The Reichstag (Bundestag) and Cupola Dome – German Federal Parliament & National Capitol Building

Chock full of world-changing moments, this mammoth structure is more than the national capitol. It is an historic landmark.

On Tuesdays at 12 noon, there is a free English lecture and Q&A session in the actual chambers of Parliament – super! And, as a reward for attending poly-sci class and observing Ms. Merkel’s stomping grounds, you get to bypass standing in the usual 2-hr Schlange ("snake" - that’s German for ‘queue’) to visit the modern, transparent Cupola dome at the top of the Bundestag.

The controversial Cupola was designed by renowned British architect, Lord Norman Foster and was completed in 1999. Many felt the modern glass dome detracted from the historical tone of the Reichstag building; however, in the end, it was decided that Germany needed a new image for its main government building – that of embracing the future, seeing clearly, and – perhaps most importantly – a symbol of transparency, so that the public would always have access to the proceedings of decision-makers inside parliament.

No secrets – that is the intended message.

The Roof Terrace of the Reichstag boasts panoramic views of all of Berlin. Take a spin around and see all the monuments, landmarks and highlights of Germany’s capital. There’s even a free audio-guide tour for every visitor in every language. The ecological consciousness with which Lord Foster designed the cupola is touching.

My favorite aspect of the Bundestag cupola is the totally open dome – welcoming the rain, snow, fresh air, starlight and white puffy clouds. One feels they could fly to heaven out the top of the national dome – open, light and liberated. Perhaps that is how politics could be.

Chapeaux! to Lord Foster.

BONUS: Take a Little Trip with Me...

Now, turn up your sound, sit back, relax, and take a virtual trip via my mini-film, "Wanderlust am Bundestag,” and enjoy the Reichstag terrace, cupola, and Foster's architecture right here.

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