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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).

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!

Sep 12, 2016

What to do until election or "Jayanthi Mangala Kali"

Attention is like gold, precious and to be guarded. It is Life force (prana), a form of Love. Attention fuels the growth of yogic stamina and the building of an inner body radiance.

Because attention is so delicious and yummy, there are many things that want to feed on it and will gobble it up: distractions of all sorts; addictive patterns of behavior; neurotic cycles of thought; and so on.

Lately I've noticed in myself that a potentially huge gobbler of attention is election talk and worry. I feel this gobbler as if it were a swarm of bees, thickening the air around me. If I don't pause and place attention in my body and breath, my attention is gobbled right up by political fears and polarized opinions.

After having watched my attention get consumed a few times now, by the election year killer bees, I happened upon a new strategy for this election year. Actually, I don’t think I happened upon it, I think it happened upon me. Grace swooped in ahead of the killer bees and said: “do this now, and then keep doing it all the way to the election”. I am singing to the Mother. I am singing to Her by the name of Durga /Kali using a particular chant (mentioned at end of this article). But I could very well be singing to the great Mother by the name of Mary or many other names that She goes by. When I sing this chant I am praising as well as praying for the arrival of Her qualities in myself and in the world, qualities like beauty, kindness, generosity and forbearance. I've been singing this mantra108 times each day but I don't like to make rigid rules and even three times wholeheartedly would be fine. (“Making it” to 108 could be just another distraction). Really what I wait for is not a number but an arising in my heart center of an alive and directly felt sense of the Feminine. Once I feel Her energy moving and expanding in me, I wish it or pray it outward to both political candidates. (I have to confess I started out by praying toward my favorite candidate first and then sometimes “forgetting” to wish it to the other. But now I am upgrading my practice and wishing it towards the difficult one first, and trying not to add in the thought “well, that one needs it a LOT more than the other one :)

When I extend love and energy of my heart outward to my least favorite candidate, I pay attention to see if I lose the essence of that quality of the Mother moving inside of my heart and, if so, I go back to building it inwardly and then I extend outward again. If I need to make it easier I will extend to a beloved one first, before I take on the bigger task of presidential candidates.

I have always been very careful not to bring politics into the studio because I want Garden Street to remain open and welcoming to people of various religions and politics. (I admit I have never had a neo-Nazi show up and I don't know what I would do if it happened, but probably that will never happen. Phew). So it makes me laugh to realize after all these years of being diligently a-political in the context of Garden Street that I am now putting out a very strong political statement without actually naming either candidate.

If I can’t do this – then how in the world do I expect a political candidate to be a source of renewal of the feminine on this earth which sorely needs Her now.

I praise and pray for the Heart qualities of the Mother to expand and me and outward into the world. 

This is the chant I am using. Various tunes are available on you-tube.

Jayanti Mangala Kali Bhadra-Kali Kapalini
Durga Shiva Ksama Dhatri Svaha Svadha Namo'Stu Te

We extend reverence to the nine aspects of the divine mother.
May she ever guide and protect me.

Translation by Manorama