I attended the Hanuman Festival in Boulder this year (my 2nd festival). I can tell you the story of Hanuman (a story of devotion, a story of finding our inner strength, a story of remembering how powerful we are...) another time.
Valerie D'Ambrosio is a yoga instructor and life coach. She is one of the founders of the Hanuman Festival. My Yoga For A Cause business partner, Natasha, attended Valerie's class at the Festival. Valerie mentioned in class that if anyone had something they would like to have published in her newsletter, to let her know. Natasha, being the totally awesome business partner that she is, mentioned me to Valerie.
Valerie then decided to highlight me as her "Inspired Individual"! I was excited and honored!
So, I spent an entire morning composing my write-up and answering Valerie's really tough and deep-thoughtful questions.. It was quite an exercise into myself!
I wanted to share this with you all.
Click here to read the newsletter, Organic Twist.
Scroll down a bit to the "OT Inspired Individual" section.
Yoga For A Cause (coloradoyogaforacause.org) was born in March 2012 when a mother in my neighborhood reached out because her son had been diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. Medical expenses were piling up, and she needed help. I didn't know her personally, and didn't feel that I alone could contribute much, and I reflected on so many people who are in a similar situation, needing help but afraid to ask, and how we as a society have grown so distant even though we are neighbors. From there, I considered how deeply important community is. And my community, my kula, is full of yogis who want to help if you just ask them.
A quote from Margaret Mead inspired my first event:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
That quote continues to inspire and give life to my vision of Yoga For A Cause, and what it could be. As individuals, as separate beings, our influence is small. But as a whole community, as one, we can move
Summer 2012 I hosted six events for various organizations, including the Chanda Plan Foundation and one for Colorado Wildfire Relief.
For the Summer 2013 season, I wanted to make a greater impact, and realizing again that as one my impact only goes so far, but as a community we can do so much more, Natasha joined me in renewing YFAC! We decided to focus on one organization, The Gathering Place (www.tgpdenver.org) as the recipient of our donations, and have reached out to three established studios in the Denver area, well-known instructors and musicians, to design three main events. For these events, 70% of ticket sales will be donated directly to The Gathering Place with a season goal of $5000.
We have also been honored by a few other donation-based yoga communities, Sunset Yoga and Bhakti Yoga Breakfast Club, who have committed their summer seasons to Yoga For A Cause. Generosity abounds, and I am truly delighted and honored to see it become a reality!
QUESTIONS from Valerie:
*How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
I think age is a mentality. I am older than most assume I am, and that is probably because I consider myself young! I think 32 is a nice, ripe age with tons of potential! (But I am older than that!) ;)
*Who and what do you love? What are you doing about it?
I love everyone and everything. Truly. I love even what I loathe. It's complicated, isn't it? To find that even something (or someone) you loathe has a place, and to be able to truly appreciate that place and love that thing. I love my community, my family, and more than I ever knew I could, I love my children.
What I am doing about it is to make my hope for the future into action. With YFAC for example, I want to show that we can come together as a community and share in an experience while also helping others. I want my children to know that this is important to me, and through them I hope to establish a love for all things.
(om shanti, shanti, shanti...)
*How do you celebrate the things you do have?
Wow, that's a hard one, and one I am sure I will work on throughout my life! :) I celebrate by living, by appreciating every thing that I have, whether that be my lifestyle, my family, or material things. But I also celebrate with the understanding that nothing is permanent, and that one day, in an instant, expected or unexpected, every thing I have could be gone. And, by knowing that if that happens, what remains will be my life and my memories, and through those I can continue the celebration.
*What is the difference between living and existing?
The difference between living and existing... to exist is simply to be in a state of being, not impacting or changing or moving or actively doing. Living is just that, actively doing. Living is actively finding your strengths, and what you can do with them. Living is taking risks. Living is doing something that terrifies you, once in a while at least. Living is
realizing that everything you do has an effect on something else. Living is doing all that you can with what you have in this life.
*What legacy to you want to leave?
I see my greatest legacy through my children. I observe their actions, how compassionate they are towards others, how open to life they are, and how they work through difficulties. I feel that through them, my legacy will continue. And as with Yoga For A Cause, I hope that legacy includes fostering a knowledge that we are all one, good and bad, happy and sad, beautiful and grotesque, and that as one, we all deserve the same compassion and hope for the future.
Kristen Boyle is a yoga instructor in Denver, and remains forever the student.
(Om bolo shri satguru bhagavan ki.)
I choose not to listen too closely to the news when I feel it pries too deeply into the lives of others, constantly flashing judgments and opinions in our faces. But the case of Trayvon Martin weighs heavily on the current climate of our country, more closely our own neighborhoods and communities.
I do not view George Zimmerman a monster.
TO ME, he is the unfortunate product of our time, and what happened between George and Trayvon that terrible night indicates that we need to closely examine our laws and prejudices we and why they exist.
TO ME, George Zimmerman is perhaps a zealot. That characteristic in a person who takes his duty to protect his own so seriously that he would take deadly action to do so can be dangerous. His zeal leads him to confuse his role with that of trained law enforcement, even when asked by the 911 responder to stay away.
CONSIDER George, armed with a gun, a gun he is legally allowed to carry, and he carries it into his duty to protect.
CONSIDER George, who grew up in a social climate where blacks or people of dark skin, especially young males in
hoodies, are viewed as a threat. That's a prejudice of deadly ramifications.
CONSIDER the "stand your ground" law, which essentially legalizes a person to use deadly force in exactly the situation George and Trayvon found themselves in.
The result of this combination is deadly. It is one which has the potential to blame the victim for has own murder. This is precisely what we have just seen happen in the Florida courts.
I FEEL for Trayvon Martin, his family suffering his loss, and all black teens whose parents fear they will be viewed and treated the same way, and who are fighting for justice.
I FEEL for George Zimmerman and his family, who will forever live with threats and hate from those who view him as a monster.
I HOPE that from this place we can bring about change, change that will help people to see the "other" as their
equal. to question whether a gun is necessary and right in a situation, and to closely examine the Stand Your Ground Law and its implications.
Whether you agree or disagree with what I have written, thank you for reading. By listing closely, we begin understand.
Take a comfortable seat. Bend your elbows and bring your arms by your sides, palms up. Close your eyes. Now, in your right hand, imagine something you LOVE. Feel its weight. Smile. In your left hand, imagine something the opposite - somethi...ng you LOATHE. Feel its weight. Keep smiling. Stay
calm. What you are cultivating is a state of equanimity.
Equanimity (aequus - even, animus - mind/soul) is a balanced state of stability and composure which is undisturbed by the experience of emotional, physical or other phenomena, whether ecstatic (good) or traumatic (bad).
Equanimity is a state revered by many spiritualities. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, equanimity (upekshā) is one of the “four sublime attitudes”, along with loving kindness (maitri), compassion (karunā), joy (mudita).
In Hindu thought, equanimity describes the nature of Brahman, the Absolute Reality.
Absolute Reality is just what it sounds like – everything, the All! And Everything encompasses just that, everything – meaning good and bad, and everything in between.
Ironically, to think of things as good and bad, saying we love or loathe something – that is a human judgment. Cultivating a state of equanimity eventually allows us to move beyond our human judgments, our labeling, to a state of simple accepting all that IS.
When we cultivate (and cultivate implies working towards a goal, not necessarily the goal itself) this state of equanimity, when we can remain in balanced, stable, composed when faced with a physical, emotional or other experience, whether ecstatic or traumatic, we are able to experience it from a place of power.
Yoga allows us the space to cultivate this state, and through yoga (yoke, union), we practice the joining of the two – good and bad – without judgment.
My hope for you is, that when we cultivate equanimity on our mats, we can take that state, that lesson, that thought, out into the world, our daily lives, and though we may not remain in that state for always, it is a familiar place that
we can recall and tap into when faced with life’s experiences.
Kristen is a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and Life Mentor. She offers online and in-person healing sessions. She lives and teaches in Denver, Colorado