Tag Archives: community

Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

Top 50 Yoga Blogs – doyouyoga.com

best-yoga-blogs-2016-badgeThis week in classes I’ve been asking students how their day-to-day experience might be altered by waking up every morning asking, “I wonder what amazingness today will have in store for me” as opposed to waking up and thinking, “I don’t want to go to work.”

This morning I woke up to an email from DoYouYoga.com letting me know that this blog has been included on their Top 50 Yoga Blogs list. Amazingness indeed!

Check out the entire list here: http://www.doyouyoga.com/best-yoga-blogs/, and thank you DoYouYoga.com!

This One For Matty

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soutenir-mathieu-leroux#/story to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.

Intention

i don’t have time to pay attention to critics.
i don’t have time for judgement.
i don’t have time to look at all the photos of beautiful bodies in intricate yoga poses.
i don’t have time to get caught up in gossip.
i don’t have time for blaming.
i don’t have time for finger-pointing and name calling.
i don’t have time to try to convince people to pay attention.
i don’t have time for hypocritical speech and false “friends.”
i don’t have time for justification of bad behaviour.
i don’t have time to make sense of any person or organization who believes that anyone is better or more deserving than anyone else.
i don’t have time to get caught up in your bullshit competition game.

i make time for education.
i make time for community.
i make time for compassion.
i make time for the awakening we’re approaching from this long slumber of unconsciousness.
i make time for self-study.
i make time to speak for those whose voices are silent.
i make time for collaboration.
i make time for the advancement of collective freedom.
i make time for helping others move forward on their journey of illumination, understanding and spiritual development.
i make time for embodying love and doing my best to let it emanate with no specific direction.
i make time for the creation of space within which both you and I can do the work that matters.

How is your i spending its time?

This Is War

25153f_83cd4e4697ce48038b1d73d9f99c7a52.png_srz_p_525_188_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI have often spoken to students about how modern-day western culture has not lived through wartime in the same way our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Wars have, and are being waged globally, of course, but our day-to-day comfort and stability has never been drastically compromised. The Iraq war, the fight against the Taliban, ISIS… these are the conflicts that come to mind when we think about wars waged in our lifetime that affect the global consciousness. But there is a war that has actually hit much closer to home regardless of where we call home, one that rarely makes the headlines because the crimes to its victims, by and large, go unreported and, in some cases, get immediately dismissed, swept under the rug. This war is the war against women.

Women have been targeted for thousands of years. Creation myths in ancient times revered the female as the source of power and life, especially in Pagan cultures and rituals, but this reference for the Divine Mother shifted around 1700 B.C.E. with the Babylonian Seven Tablets of Creation. This story essentially told the tale of a mother who is killed by one of her male children, no less at the moment where her belly is greatly swollen, resembling a woman in the final stages of pregnancy. The murderous son then creates the world out of the dismembered body of his mother and becomes a God in his own right. This God murders and dismembers the divine female and Goddess worship begins its downward spiral until most, if not all, cultures and religions begin to assign greatness to the male archetypes by devaluing and demonizing the previously-held female ones.

In one of my earliest blog posts entitled The Devil and Greta Garbo, I discussed the stigma that left-handed people faced and referenced the Italian usage of the word “sinistra” (sinister) to signify that which relates to the left. In the Yoga tradition, amongst others, the left side of the body is equated with feminine energy, and so I deduced that the correlation could not be coincidental. I believe that the true power of the Divine Female, the energetic force of a Mother Earth and everything she encompasses, stood in the way of the male need to dominate and rule and served as a very real threat. As a result, the power that had once been relegated to the Goddess was not just taken, it was done so violently, shamelessly, ruthlessly and intentionally. All that related to the female was labelled less-than, suspect and sinister.

And so here we are. According to www.canadianwomen.org, “Gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. This fundamental inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it requires violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law. Violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable – maybe even necessary – to exert power over them. This mindset also drives many other forms of violence, such as racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution.”

Women today carry more than they should in their daily lives. From not being able to walk down the street without the fear of being singled out presenting itself to being called bitch/whore/slut/cunt for the most innocuous of perceived slights by both men and other women, the symbolic and energetic weight of being a women today demands that females draw on that ancient strength and power that initially commanded our devotion to The Goddess. Women have to be more aware, more resilient, more shrewd and more careful then we men do. The double standard is disgusting, and I, as a man who adores and reveres women as the source of wisdom and life, am fed up with violence and abuse towards women being an accepted demon that lives amongst us.

The statistics pertaining to violence towards women are staggering, and to be honest, I’d rather have you research them yourselves than list them here and have people tune out to the point of this blog entry. My life is Yoga, and Yoga is my life, and Yoga is not about physical movement or postures. Yoga is not about breathing consciously or Lululemon clothes. Yoga is understanding that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Yoga is recognizing oneness and unity and turning wounds into purpose. Yoga is standing up for those who have either been silenced or feel that their cries would fall on deaf ears. I want to add my voice to those cries to help amplify them so they can be heard. I am begging you to raise your voice as well so that WE CAN ALL BE HEARD.

Join me on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, at the YM-YWHA (5400 Westbury Avenue) from 1-3pm as we come together as human beings who have decided that enough is enough. Let’s all stand united for all women who have ever felt diminished in any way simply because of their gender. This is a fundraiser and an awareness-raiser. Bring your yoga mats if you plan to participate in the asana practice, but don’t feel pressured to partake. I want everyone to simply show up authentically, in whatever way they deem relevant.

Bring your cash and chequebooks as well. 100% of funds raised is going to Women Aware/Femmes Averties (www.womenaware.ca) and tax receipts will be issued for donations $25 and greater.  Organized almost 20 years ago by a group of survivors of domestic abuse, this Montreal-based organization is actively making a difference by providing long-term support to victims, increasing awareness to this issue in our communities and working both independently and in conjunction with other local organizations and teams.

This is not going to be an opportunity to rip apart men or point the finger of blame. This event is a moment of healing, of community and of social awareness and activism. If we stand for nothing, we fall for everything. Let’s refuse to fall apart as a society. Let’s refuse to turn a blind eye. Let’s refuse complacency. It’s time to stand. For something and for each other. It can only happen if we’re all in it. Together.

See also: All Hail – a post from 2011 written for International Women’s Day.
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The Wolves in Sheep’s Yoga Pants

lululemonThey say that any publicity is good publicity, and it seems like this past week is no exception for Lululemon. In an interview for Bloomberg TV, Lulu founder Chip Wilson was responding to issues with the pilling of some of the company’s women’s yoga pants when he said, “There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.” The media jumped all over this, as did what seems to be the entire yoga community. The media’s behaviour is never going to change, because they emphasize what serves to draw in viewers, readers, and hits to their websites. I’ve got a message for the global yoga community, however, and I want you to pay attention.

I don’t know Chip. I’ve never met him, and I may never. My relationship to him is irrelevant. The fact is, he’s a guy. A human being. And every single one of you reading this has said something at one point or another in your life that, if recorded and turned into a sound byte to be replayed over and over again, would make you look pretty stupid/insensitive/selfish/callous, etc… I’m not going to defend what Chip said, because it sounds pretty hard core. However, I understand what he was trying to say. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my lifetime, and I know what it means for my jeans to feel tight on me when the weight I’ve gained on my thighs causes the fabric between them to start to wear away from the friction of them rubbing together. If the president of Levi’s came out and said that some people just don’t have the right body type to wear the jeans, insinuating that I’m the cause of the wearing away of the fabric, I’d be pissed off as well. I’d resent not having the head of the company fess up to the fabric itself not being resilient enough to handle my body type. But as Wilson says earlier on in the same interview that very few people have stopped to listen to in its entirety, “The thing is when you push technology…we are a technology company, and when you push technology that’s not like software, an actual physical product, there’s a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric. It’s almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.”

The work Lululemon is doing with clothes and technical fabrics is always a work in progress. I know this because I have sat down with designers and buyers to discuss existing issues with the clothes and what could be done to improve the quality, wearability, design and durability of the products. Chip admits to having made mistakes in the past, and his choice of words relating to the pilling issue may just be the latest one he’ll make. But it won’t be the last one. You know why? Because the guy is human and he’s doing his best, just like every single one of you were the last time you fucked up in public and had the reflection of your words or actions mirrored back to you by the people around you.

The fact of the matter is this, yogis: we should know better. We should know better than to start spreading hate and judgement all over the internet because we feel wrong done by. Every single second of every single yoga or meditation practice we’ve ever chosen to spend our time and energy on was intended to teach us that connection is our goal. We are being divided and separated by our governments, by lobbyists, and by heads of companies that have something to gain by making us feel less than, and if Chip and Lululemon fall into that category for you as an individual, then so be it. But hold on a second – every single thing we’ve learned from the yoga teachers and teachings is meant to be applied between stimulus and response. We get riled up by something, and…HANG ON…how are we going to react? How do we want to impact the world? We’re supposed to know better. What promotes unity and evolution when faced with the threat of separation? Throwing judgement and venom around or doing every thing you possibly can to do your part to make sure it doesn’t happen again? For those of you who have gone off on a downward spiral of self-indignation and anger, did you take a moment to write a letter to Lululemon’s team in Vancouver or to a store manager in your community to suggest that the issue of the fabric should be looked at again as the strive to produce technological fabrics that work with all bodies evolves? Did you decide to give Chip a break by remembering when you too said something that might offend and focus on what good Lululemon has done so far in its evolution as a community-driven company?

I’ve already written about what Lululemon means to me and how this company has been by my side as I’ve found my feet and worked harder than I’ve ever worked before at bringing connection back to the world. You can find those posts here, here, here, here & here. The team at Lululemon has sent me flowers to congratulate me on the evolution of my career. They have invested in my well-being so that I can continue to effect change in the lives of others. They have helped me get teaching gigs at major international yoga festivals, and they are holding a special event to help launch and promote The Examined Life, a book I diligently and painstakingly worked on for over 18 months. They have and continue to be my family, and if your brother made an off-the-cuff comment on TV and the world turned on him to beat the crap out of him, you’d get defensive as well.

The fact of the matter is this: Chip has created an incredible company. Nothing is ever one thing, and there will always be growing pains, so those of you who are content listing every bump in the road that Lulu has endured to post online and stir up the tsunami of anger can continue on. But you’re missing the point entirely and just contributing to separation. We should be coming together as a community to help Lulu get over this bump and be better for it instead of trying to tear them down. I’ve written about this in the book – we build up the people and companies that we find revolutionary and in keeping with how we want the world to be, but when those same people show the slightest hint of humanity, we tear them down and set fire to them. It’s time to grow up and ask if we’re pulling our community down or contributing to its growth and long-term well-being with our thoughts, words and actions.

You may not agree with my thoughts and opinion, and that’s how it should be. I’m as much of a work in progress as Chip and Lululemon are. I’m as much of a work in progress as you are. Let’s do what we can to make things work for everyone, ensuring that we create the space in which anyone is allowed to fall and fuck up, knowing that they will have support and helping hands to stand back up with. No one gets it right on the first attempt, but to try and shoot everyone down who tried something new would ensure that we stay stuck and stagnant, and my entire career is based on moving forwards and re-instating connection. Don’t get distracted from what you seek long-term, and make it your mission to see that become reality no matter what you have to give. Stand up and contribute instead of branding those who display the slightest shred of humanity with a scarlet letter. We know better, so let’s apply what we know.

In The Presence of Giants

20131019-020035.jpgLululemon brought me out to Western Canada last week as a way of bringing together 28 of their North American Ambassadors whose stores thought they had something special to offer. What ended up coming together was a grouping of the brightest lights I’ve ever been exposed to. These leaders in their communities brought their hopes, their fears, their inspirations and their souls to BC’s Sunshine Coast. With coaxing and encouragement from the exemplary Lululemon facilitators (absolute and undeniable leaders in their own rights) and the force that is Susanne Conrad, all of our lights joined forces to create a field of energy that permeated everything and everyone around us (including the Stephen King-esque fog that cloaked our nest in the wilderness like vaporous glue). That light intensified throughout our days together, and what’s fascinating is that even once our family started to fragment and break away as we headed back on our journeys home, it didn’t wane. I’m flying somewhere over Saskatchewan as I write this (yes, Ryan Leier, I’m waving down, and yes, they let a 40-year old on the plane ;)), I feel that light coursing through my veins.

Lululemon knows how it’s done. They take care of their people and continuously and consistently check in with us to make sure we’re equipped to continue to maintain the fine balance that we all aim to keep. They’re more than a company. They’re a family. We’re a family. And we’re hell-bent on bringing that light we all harvested back with us to shine onto our communities. The imprint of us may remain on the Sunshine Coast, but the streaks of light that stem from it are stretching far and wide across our continent right now.

Thank you, Lululemon. Again. From the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads. We thank you. We couldn’t do it as well without you.

Where I Am

I’m lying on a plush, king-size bed in a cozy little room in a cabin nestled deep in the mountains adjacent to Vancouver at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont, British Columbia. I once again find myself speechless at how beautifully generous and thoughtful Lululemon is, as I’ve been invited to the 2013 Ambassador Summit as one of a select group of 27 other yogis from around North America.

We were met at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel by a welcoming committee in a conference room set up to help us relax upon our arrival with yoga mats, food and drink. After eating, we were whisked off by taxi to the harbour-front port where seaplanes flew us over the coastal mountains for 25 minutes before landing at the dock of the hotel. We climbed the short hill to the front desk, got our room keys, and scattered to relax and prepare for a yoga class.

The coming days will be an opportunity for us all to be inspired by the galvanizing words and tools shared by the incomparable Susanne Conrad, the Director of Possibilities for the company, a woman who understands the need to dream as much as she understands the importance of a profit & loss statement. Interspersed amongst our lectures and activities with her are yoga classes, hikes through the jaw-droppingly beautiful forest we’ve burrowed into, and the opportunity to get to know each other. I don’t take this opportunity lightly: meeting others who do what I do from different parts of the continent and realizing just how vast and far-reaching our community is. I feel so insanely lucky. But I also know that luck has nothing to do with it.

I work hard. I infuse every ounce of myself into what I do, and I’m beyond grateful that that effort and intention continues to be acknowledged and honoured. Lululemon must have seen something in me early on in my career, because they’ve been backing me up and encouraging me for over 4 years now. And yet even with all that support behind me, I now find myself in this room on the other side of the country, being treated like I matter. I appreciate it, obviously, but for different reasons than you might think.

I work to inspire, encourage and elevate people. I aim to bring people from a place where they’re mainlining to a place where they’re constantly being one-upped by the beauty and the highs that life has in store for each of us. It can be hard work, very demanding, and requires me to stay high energy for those I’m teaching/mentoring/lecturing to, etc… I often have moments where I feel depleted, where I need to refill my own cup before I can authentically and honestly go into the next teaching environment and inform others on how to refill theirs. Lululemon’s constant and unwavering support, consistently putting the company’s money where its mouth is, helps me refill my cup. I feel inspired. I feel honoured. I feel like it’s no accident that I’ll be spending my 40th birthday here on Thursday, an age which many faiths and belief systems attribute to the anchoring of the soul in the body. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I want to thank every single person from Lululemon who has contributed to my being here. The list is too long to get into here, but you know who you are. I don’t take ANY of this for granted. I am aware of how fortunate I am to have people listening to me and giving back what I work so hard to initially offer. I’ll be back in Montreal at the end of the week and will have more to share from this moment on the edge of the country. For now, love to all.

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From Paros to Paris Pt 4

imageI’ve opened my iPad before the seat belt signs have been turned off, eager to write this as soon as the wheels of the plane I’m on have lifted off of Greek soil. So far there’s no sign of my infraction risking the lives of my co-passengers, and so I’ll keep going with the assumption that this blog post is meant to be pounded out now 🙂

The Paros retreat ended today on a great note with one last breakfast en groupe. One last morning to feast on the greatest 10% fat yoghurt (that NO North American company can ever duplicate as they reduce calories and fat, despite the trend to market yoghurt as “Greek Style”), the most delectable watermelon, bananas, pears, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the revelation that is Portokalopita (look it up…you won’t regret it). Our group splintered off as we drove away in our separate vehicles, and continued to do so as our separate ferries whisked us away onto the next step of our journeys.

This retreat has been a really special one, in much different ways than previous ones. This group was the first to want to be together almost all the time. This group was the first to express the desire to have the classes brought to an intermediate level. And this group was the first that saw three people stay for the first week, and three more come for the last 4-5 days. Regardless of all of that, this group wasn’t completely unique to past ones, as once again, a fantastic group of like-minded souls came together from different spots around the globe to bask in the soul-stirring energy that is only found in Greece.

Every person who participated in this retreat, regardless of where they came from or why they were there, walked away with more than they arrived with. From having a clearer idea of where they want their life to go, to knowing that being away from family was a true test of patience, these people gained something from the experience. And all the while, around our asana and iRest classes, they were given the platform from which they could jump off into the unknown and explore the miracles that are found in Paros. Hunting down new beaches on a daily basis, descending on the city centres of Naoussa and Parikia, visiting a local winery…there was stuff to do, even in the remoteness of this island paradise. Throughout all of it, we all knew that no matter what our days consisted of, we were coming home. Home to Margarita Studios, and home to Stella Fyrogeni.

Stella runs her hotel with one intention: to make sure everyone staying there is happy. If that means whipping up a last-minute meal for someone not drawn in by that evening’s delectable dish, so be it. If that means giving someone another room that better suits their needs, so be it. If that means driving into the port to drop off or pick someone up, so be it. If that means preparing a meal based on requests from her guests, so be it. This woman goes above and beyond what’s necessary, and so it comes as no surprise that she will celebrate her 25th year with Margarita Studios in 2014. She was a mother to us all, even if only for 10 days, but a mother nonetheless.

I didn’t find Stella or her hotel on my own. I had help from Michael Shepherd, who after living on the island of Paros for 10 years, familiarized himself with local businesses, their owners and their customs. Not only did he take care of the logistics of accommodation, meals and transportation for us, he does the same regardless of activity and interest on any Greek island. He also works at providing personalized travel guides for Greece, Ireland and Czech Republic. Michael brought his own signature style to the retreat by taxiing people around and organizing a couple of meals for us at alternate locations around the island, and I can honestly say that the retreat would have not been the same without his input.

As the second and last retreat of 2014 starts to recede in our calendars, we know that it steeps in our awareness and will inflect future moments with its images, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations. Anyone who has visited the Greek islands is all too aware of how the light falls on the landscape after 4pm, how the vividness of the bougainvillea jumps out to meet you wherever you can find it, and how the sun and salt-drenched air softly envelopes you regardless of the time of day. These memories serve to not only inform the future, but change how we define what we know by expanding our frame of reference. They serve to provide new heights of what we know beauty to be, and in the case of this (and previous) retreat groups, they also serve to provide new heights of how we define community.

Those who weren’t in Santorini with us in 2011, Croatia in 2012, Istanbul in April 2013 or Paros over the last 10 days won’t ever be able to fully understand what it’s been like in these albeit briefly adopted families. The essence of the groups isn’t only comprised of the location we live in – it’s built on the personalities that inform it. Every single person who participates brings their own uniqueness to the moment, and without them, the moment wouldn’t be what it is destined to be.

For every single one of you who is on your way back from Paros, know that you’re taking a little bit of every other person’s energy from the group with you. Thank you for making the retreat what it was.

For every single one of you who has come on any of my retreats, thank you for proving me right when I insisted on ignoring that inner voice of doubt that almost talked me out of holding my inaugural solo retreat in Santorini in 2011.

You are all family, regardless of how long we spent with each other and whether or not we stayed in touch.

The retreats for 2014 are being organized, bit by bit, and are being tweaked based on past retreats to ensure that they live up to the standards I know will help bring fresh insight and perspective to the participants. Full details will be made public when they’re finalized, and so in the interim, feel free to visit the Facebook page with pics from this latest jaunt, and I’ll post again later next week from Paris.

From Paros to Paris Pt 3

imageThe first rain to fall in 6 months has passed through Paros over the last 3 hours and has left a warm,  blustery wind in its wake. We’re halfway through this retreat, and we are surrounded by beauty. The landscape here is absolutely divine. The shades of blue that are everywhere, from the sky to the ocean, are indescribable and inimitable. The food is literally overflowing with fullness, richness, tastiness…a veritable multi sensory experience. The kindness from the locals is exemplary, something we should all be aligning ourselves with. These people give. Of spirit, of time, of food, of comfort and of kindness, these people are givers. We are surrounded by light and beauty and each other, and the bonding amongst the members of this group and the people who have welcomed us to this hotel is intensifying daily.

We will have a day-long boat tour of Antiparos tomorrow, during which we’ll stop at various beaches and take an hour to practice asana on one of them. I’m seeing, once again, how overflowing with all the things that truly matter these retreats are. I’m seeing, once again, how they leave each one of us imprinted with the experience that collectively enjoying everything that life has to offer. As all of you who have come on retreat with me are aware of, these events stay with you vividly, the images and memories of which never fade in vibrancy. Each time I realize the power of these retreats, I find myself floored by the position I have come to be in. I work hard to make my life and the life of others full and rich and complete and full of abundance. And when I accomplish what I set out to, it leaves me silent. And stunned. And grateful.

If I died this minute, I would have a smile on my face and peace in my heart. I can’t begin to express the magnitude of how humbled I am to find myself, after years of dedication and perseverance, in the position where I’m affecting the lives and happiness of others. Hopefully these words are a good start.

Sending light from Greece…