Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Silent Meditation: Vipassana in Australia

Getting Silent to Find Peace.

meditation1

This article was written by a dear friend Kate Morton, who lives “down under”! Kate  lives in sunny Brisbane, Queensland Australia. Kate was introduced to Yoga at the tender age of fifteen to help her manage her asthma. As life took hold, adventure and work took her overseas travelling and working for many years. A busy life and Yoga fell by the wayside. She loves finding healthy living options for the mind, body and soul and is now reconnecting with what makes the soul tick.

my profile

 I had the pleasure of meeting her while we were in Australia in the fall of 2011. She is an inspiring women and to see the effects that a dedicated yoga and mediation pracitice have… it is truly inspiring! And here her piece begins:

silence

I recently undertook my first seven day silent Meditation retreat. Yes… silent and no eye contact. A gregarious extravert I can be, this was going to be extremely challenging. My idea of meditation was a 5 minute lie on the couch..then being allowed to turn on the tv.

What was the motivation?

Meditation has come up a healing strategy for me for many years, so time to address it. So my motivation was to experience and learn the benefits of daily mediation, shift something, restore energy having experienced Adrenal fatigue for 12 months  … and someone to cook great vegetarian food, and that it was.

Was it what I thought it would be?

Possibly something I could of looked into more before I committed to booking in 5 days before it began, but hey when do I ever, I just go do it!!! And glad I did.

We have a reputable Vipassana Meditation retreat in beautiful Pimono Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia, a few friends saying it was life changing….but pretty strict….not something I needed as being too hard on myself, probably a result of the Adrenal fatigue,  was not the idea. So an alternative was run by the Australian Dharma Insight group. Finding a comprehendible comparison or outline on either is difficult now I look for information, making it difficult to explain …something I now remember when listening to friends and their experiences.

Springbrook QLD

What was it?

A 7 day Meditation retreat done in silence. ‘Why’ I hear some people say.

Quote : (and excuse me if you already know) …Insight Meditation (also known as Vipassana) refers to both Buddhist meditation practices and a largely Western form of Buddhism. A feature of Insight Meditation as a form of Buddhism is that it is either free of ritual or has minimal ritual. Aims of Insight Meditation include coming to a deep understanding of ourselves, and developing compassion for all living beings.  There are different styles of Insight Meditation. Some common threads are that they all place importance on acting in an ethical way, and they all have a focus on settling the mind, developing a level of clarity, and looking carefully at one’s experience.

paper people

We had those practicing style opportunities and I was in an environment where structure was provided. The schedule included a 6am wake up (reasonable I thought), eight 45 minute opportunities during the day to sit, in silence, in the meditation hall. Of course you could sit additionally to this. An evening talk. Breaks for meals, a bell was rung to indicate time to move onto the next session. And an opportunity for individual conversations with teacher.

All sessions were optional, not compulsory and being in the beautiful (cold)  hinterland off the Gold Coast, QLD Australia, lots of long walks with nature were in order when the sun appeared.

Vegetarian meals were provided, we had a daily 30 minute job – mine was breakfast clean up so there was a necessary opportunity for some talk then.

So the mixture of structure and flexibility was great and the teachers adjusted to the groups needs.

silent area

What did I experience ?

I can now sit comfortably, the perfect stool and sitting position helps. I averaged 5 sits a day and 45 minutes a day got easier – I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I had naps when I needed. And ate like a trooper. I put on weight that I needed to put on.

The biggest challenge was ‘this is weird’ ..no eye contact felt like I was surrounded by a room of zombies. Am I doing this right? Gosh they are serious about this stuff. Who are these people? I’ve got some great ideas of how I could renovate the kitchen….Eventually my thoughts did slow down after some particularly strong emotions and breakdown that needed my attention and assistance from teachers . The realization being that I can be in a pretty dark place after a shit year and I was hearing myself laugh again …even in silence.

In talking to the other students on the last day in order to re-acclimate to the outside world, I was hypersensitive to engulfing myself in others ‘stuff’, so I focused on feeling the joy others were experiencing and was quite surprised in their intrigue how I survived as a first timer. Maybe they had forgotten their maiden retreat now they had become regular ‘retreaters’ .

So I left with Trust and patience, trust to reduce the effort for things to work, as a result the sit became easier. And it was a great debrief and giggle with my new friend on the drive home.

What now?

I write this in a period of transition, but I can’t help but feel optimistic about the future. Will I join the Sunday night mediation group? Will I have more energy and focus, motivation and will meditation be a permanent part of my daily routine? Who knows. I certainly enjoyed the process of settling the mind and like the benefits.

soul healing

I know what these silent retreats involve and now I have a stronger interest in Yatras – silent meditation 6 days walks. Combining my joy of walking, exploring new areas and peace of the silence.

So if the aims of Insight Meditation include coming to a deep understanding of ourselves, and developing compassion for all living beings, this is certainly a great way to stop and take time out to BE.

In the days since returning from the retreat, some notice being able to maintain an incredible level of focus and a sharpening of all the senses. I’ve noticed being grounded and less flighty, maybe I can call it a glow. But is it waning. Time to get back on the stool.

These experiences allow me to feel confident in saying there is something in meditation for everyone who is brave enough to give it a go and sit…….in silence.

*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for more on Taozi’s travels, inspiration, and yoga pictures!***


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Meet your meat.

Pigs

The most common reason that people state for why they are vegetarian is animal cruelty. They are probably the breed of person that loves animals. This type of person has an affinity for the living spirit. They look at a pig or a cow in the eyes and think “hey there little guy!”… And the returning “oink” or “moo” is seen as a “hello there mister you!”… ahhhh so cute! This is the way some of us operate. This is how I have always felt- raised to love animals by our psychotic mother. We always had birds, bunnies, cats, dogs, a fish pond. We loved animals! We still love animals! So why are we eating them?

 Animal Cruelty: Many vegetarians will go on and on and on about the treatment of animals in the food industry. Horrific. I came home from class one day in college to find my roommate, Jeff Hunter, sitting on the couch watching a grotesque documentary on the butchering of animals in a slaughterhouse. He didn’t eat meat for a week and after the haze of the memory faded, swore he would just never watch the documentary again. Many of us simply don’t want to know the truth. The threat of actually having to do something differently is too much. I believe many vegetarians would agree, that it isn’t “wrong” to eat meat.

“Some groups suggest that it is immoral to eat meat, for it necessitates destroying life. However, this implies that the law of nature is wrong; that lions, tigers and other carnivorous animals are committing, sin. This opinion cannot be correct, for it is a rule of physical existence that certain forms of life sustain themselves by killing and eating other forms of life. It is not immoral when a lion kills and eats a zebra; it is designed to act this way.” Yoga and Kriya   pg 213.

lion-zebra-300x199

I think that if a person feels they should eat meat, thats great. It is in the way that the animals are raised and killed. Unfortunately for most western shoppers, 99% of the animals are factory farmed in hellish conditions (Foer). It is because of this cruelty that many western yogis decide to simply put meat down altogether and opt for the veggies. They are practicing the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence. This is the first Yama in Patanjali’s eight-fold path. In many of the worlds leading religions, cruelty to animals is considered to be a sin. Sri Swami Sivananda states:

“Killing of animals is a great sin. Ahimsa is the first virtue that a spiritual aspirant should try to possess. You should have reverence for life. Lord Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall attain mercy.’ Mahavira shouted in a trumpet like voice, “Regard every living thing as thyself and harm no one.”

veggies

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a person shouldn’t eat meat if they feel compelled to do so. Just as a tiger eats meat and isn’t a villain, neither should the person who eats a hamburger feel like a villain. HOWEVER, where did the meat come from? How was the cow raised? How was it treated in its last moments? These are all incredibly important things to consider.

einruhr_..happy_cows..

In order for factory farming to change, we as a species have to stop eating factory farmed meat. This doesn’t mean stop eating meat altogether! There are free range, organic options (but even then, don’t always believe what it says on the label). The most obvious down side to these options are that they are expensive. Unless you live in Uganda where ‘real’ chickens and goats run around free, finding happy animals to eat might be difficult, but not impossible. It’s a matter of searching out the alternatives and making a commitment to stick with them. For incentive on why to do this, read Eating Animals by Jonathen Safran Foer, or watch the short film, “Meet your Meat”, narrated by Alec Baldwin, which shows how different types of factory farmed animals are born, raised, and slaughtered. After investigating the situation perhaps it will be easier to buy the more expensive free-range meat (or perhaps not eat meat at all).

meatyourmeat

*Do your research on the meat you decide to buy to make sure it is really free range and that the animals are treated well during their brief existence. There are so many loop holes in the industry now it is extremely hard to find wholesome and humanely treated animal product. Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, or my personal favorite, Two Mile Ranch, is the best bet (if you are in Colorado)…Find out who your nearest farm to market retailer is and support them!

2-mile-logo

http://www.smallfarmlife.com

ACTION STEP: Meet your meat. If you are going to eat it… go with healthy, happy cows, pigs, and chickens. Start supporting locally owned, operated and GROWN markets. This is one way that you personally can start making a change in the industry.

Pigs


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Don’t Eat Me. I love you.

Please don't eat me...

Please don’t eat me…

Karey my adorable roommate Freshman year at CU Boulder hasn’t eaten meat since she was eight. She discovered at the dinner table one night that hamburgers were made of cows. “Ewwwww”… I can picture her saying and simply making the decision then and there that it didn’t feel right for her. I admired this very much. This reason for being a vegetarian (naturally being disgusted that meat comes from animals that we kill) always seemed way more appealing to me than the seemingly absurd reasons coming from veggie fanatics. Somehow they would make me feel guilty for my entire up bringing and culture and EVERYTHING for simply eating my moms home cooked meatballs. No one likes feeling guilty or morally inferior for being themselves. Non the less, there may have been some truth to what was being said.

Honestly, I have never been a huge meat eater. I have always preferred my macaroni and cheese to hamburger helper leading most of my friends to naturally assume I am in fact a vegetarian. This has never been the case.  However, as I continue down my path the topic seems to cross my mind more and more.

Kissed by a cow in Rishikesh.

Kissed by a cow in Rishikesh.

After spending 13 weeks nearly meat free in India, it seems a tragedy to pick up a corn dog now (not that I ever would). Somewhere along the line a shift occurred inside of me, drawing me away from my normally omnivore self. It may have been all the placid happy cows wandering safely around Rishikesh, or it may have been my discovery that eating all vegetarian is awesome. Am I never going to eat meat again? I’m not so sure. I still won’t claim to be a vegetarian because the pressure of giving it up forever (I like a good petite steak after all) is too much. The truth is that the good old days of the large open farm-land with the happy animals wandering around eating fresh grass and farm house slop are over. Unless my friend Eric decides to leave Beijing and set up his farm in Pennsylavania, I doubt I’ll enjoy bacon again any time in the near future. For today, I will handle my non-meat eating self like I handle most everything else in my life, one day at a time. For today, no meat for me thank you.

My advice to those of you who have thought about making a shift away from meat in your diet, but haven’t taken any action, is to perhaps re-evaluate. Are you one of those people who know that aspects of the meat industry are utterly horrific but would rather not know the details (you would prefer to stay in ignorance)? Then maybe it is time to start making small changes. I am by no means saying stop-eating meat all together, but there are small steps we can take to gently shift gears, perhaps beginning the drive toward a healthier, more aware, lifestyle.

Just adding in more veggies into your diet is an acceptable start I think! Try making vegetarian hamburgers one night instead of eating beef… its not that big of a deal is it?

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Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/homemade-black-bean-veggie-burgers/

So what lessons have I learned along the way about the controversial issue of eating meat?

Most common reasons to NOT eat meat: (I’ll be covering these issues in more detail in the next few posts…)

1)   Animal Cruelty: This is the classic reason advocated by most western vegetarian fanatics. We treat the animals like *%^#.  Animals have rights too! This falls nicely under Ahimsa or non-violence.

2)   The Environment: Environmentalists the world over insist that by going vegetarian the deteriorating global environmental situation could be improved.

3)   Our minds/Spirituality: Many yogic texts argue that eating meat actually has an effect on the functioning of our minds.

4)   Our HEALTH: The most solid, logical, and selfish reason to go vegetarian. Vegetarian food is as healthy (if not more so) than eating meet.

Most common reasons to eat meat:

1)   Bacon. It’s delicious. I don’t want to appear flippant, but honestly, most people I talk to about the issue argue that meat is just too good to give up.

2)   Protein/ Nutrition. How would one survive without meat!? There is a huge misconception that without meat a human would not get adequit protein to sustain itself.

3)  Ignorance.

Action Step for today: Ponder your own thoughts and feelings around eating meat. How has the way you were raised impacted you? What have you heard from vegetarian fanatics that has stuck with you? What has turned you off? Why are you or are you not a vegetarian? Or more importantly… why do you think it is so important to eat meat? 

 lisa_the_vegetarian