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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jul 7, 2017

Full Moon of the True Teacher- Guru Purnima

On May 7, my dad died. He was 92 and had a long "struggle with an angel" - like the man 
who wrestled with the angel in Rilke's poem  - to get to his last breath. He was an amazing person...humble, humorous, holy. I am so unbelievably lucky to have such a father.
My siblings and I have been working together to clear out his home which he shared with my mom, his wife of 53 years, until she died in 2012. They were children of the depression and they were hoarders, like many others who grew up during that era under the constant anxiety that their parents would lose the farm/ the homestead / everything. Mom and Dad's house was JAMMED full of everything: bags and boxes of memorabilia, gadgets, scrap paper .... you name it. There were boxes full of bags and bags full of bags. As my sisters and brother and I worked to clear it out, we felt respect and tenderness. Clearly their life had become overwhelming.
And yet.....
Even in the middle of the three-centered and overwhelming mess of his aged body, mind and home, Dad continued to be a life-long devotee of the Divine Mother. He LOVED her. She was his Satguru, his True Teacher.  (Satguru is a sanskrit word meaning an enlightened saint whose purpose is to guide one to Love). And She was his ishta devata (another sanskrit word meaning "cherished deva / divinity).
Dad’s devotion continued to expand and grow brighter – like a waxing moon - even within the  clutter of the dogma of the church which claims that one should only worship Jesus, must not worship the Divine by any other name or face and so must not worship Mary but only honor her as a pointer to Jesus. (But even in the church different priests have different degrees of dogma-itis. For example, I recently heard a Jesuit priest address an opening prayer at a Gonzaga graduation event to "Mother God").
Well, regardless of whether church dogma condoned it or not, Dad worshiped Mary. Really nothing could have changed that. Towards the end I would sit with him, we would pray the rosary and he would gaze at her image hanging on his wall with such open-hearted longing and love. It blew me away. After he had his brain hemorrhage and was only days away from death, his mind was “off-line" but his fingers continued to move the beads of his rosary. Wow. The level of his devotion to his ishta devata was embroidered into his tissues.
Tomorrow - July 8 - is the celebration called Guru Purnima - the full moon of the guru. It is a day of devotion and gratitude for the existence of teachers of all kinds, including Sat Gurus – such as the Blessed Mother Mary was /is to Dad. The grace of the guru principle is said to be a thousand times more active on the day of Guru Purnima than on any other day.
Dad would not have been interested in Guru Purnima - except in so much as it was interesting to me. He had his own Guru Purnima holidays: Holy days devoted to Mary.
But for me this is a wonderful day of remembering my teachers and my Guru and my dad. I will be thinking of the big full moon light that is my dad and his devotion to the Divine Feminine in the form of Mary, a devotion that continued to expand and wax brightly even as his house and body and mind became incapacitated and overwhelmed.  Jai Guru!


Jan 31, 2017

The Great Gesture - Maha Mudra

The Great Gesture
Maha Mudra

One of my main meditation teachers, Paul Muller Ortega, likes to say: “Earth school is a hard school”. I agree! But what an honor to be granted admission to such a good school. This tells me I am not here because I flunked or failed, or because I am a problem to be solved but because I graduated into a very good school. I like thinking like this – whether it is “true” or not.  A similar way of thinking that I like to remember and have often heard voiced by others - especially post-election - is that “we are born for these times”.

Whether we are in an Ivy League Earth School – or are “born for these times” – or both - we are wonderfully well made for the work at hand. Our bodies are perfectly designed to make the “great gesture” – to keep saying “Yes,” to embrace whatever life brings us, with our awesome Yoga superpowers, the greatest of which is love.
Part of the price of admission to earth school is to be willing to remember and awaken to Source (or call it by your own name) which is ever-present, never-absent and is pouring into this world through each body, heart and mind.

Source energy moves in and through the sacred vessel of my body, whether I am awake to it or not.

An awake body is wise with the cyclic nature of existence, miraculously ebbing and flowing in lunar adoration. Bending and flexing and twisting. To do well in this earth School, I know I must continue to practice in such a way that I am awake in my body and in the present moment. In fact, I think everyone in a body is invited, urged even, to fulfill a sacred vow, to be an awake “body” for the Sacred to move and breathe in.

I think of this vow as a Great Gesture – a Maha Mudra. (maha mudra means about a billion different things in the Yoga and Buddhist tradition…I am using it here very simply as its translation – “a great gesture / vow / prayer”)
The following is a kind of sequence – or the dance steps - to this great gesture:
  1. Relax and Open to Gravity and Grace
  2. Pull yourself together. Stand (or sit) tall. Engage a kind of muscular or integrating energy to recover your perhaps scattered attention and place that attention in your body - (heart /solar plexus/hara) 
  3. Keeping attention rooted in body, expand organically into relationship with the world (sense breath, sense whole body, expand into “horizontal” relationship with others and with “life as it is” - 360 degrees around – willing to lean and flex and bend and twist and occasionally turn upside down.
  4. Relax and Open to Gravity and Grace in order that source energy can continue to pour into this world through your body, mind and heart.   
This is how Magic happens. Or more exactly - this is how I become aware of, and available to participate with, the magic that is always happening.

The 4 steps form a circle. That is good. Mind understands lines but Body understands circles. Magic happens inside of circles. Lines divide.

Circles unite!