Practicing Serenity

Can you believe it?  This weekend our workshop is happening!  You know...

Practicing Serenity and The Way of Meditation

A few months ago a client casually asked if I would be interested in leading a recovery minded meditation mini- retreat  in the small village of Ninilchik.   Without a moment's hesitation, I declared, "Yes! Absolutely!" Wait...what?  Indeed, I did. Then, I suggested in a following conversation that the mini-retreat have the word serenity somewhere in the name.  Now why did I do that?

Context is often everything. Let's begin with what I do for a living.  I am a yoga teacher and try hard to follow the principles of that path in my life (postures, varieties of meditation, pranayama  and ethically reflecting on my actions).  It's work and sometimes an inward struggle with lots of growing experiences long the way.  Still, I wouldn't trade this lifestyle for anything because This path  brings with it profound moments of sweet insight and raw bliss. I love speaking about the yoga journey so I figured this would be a wonderful opportunity.  

Also, there is a supreme goal to all this yoga stuff. Behind these practices is the cultivation of inner calmness which in the ancient yogi tongue of Sanskrit is called "prasada".  Prasada can be translated as inner calmness but a more contemporary meaning is serenity. 

Serenity is the goal. 

I figured any workshop on yoga and meditation needed to speak about serenity.  It's the intention for both yoga and mediation. It makes sense for it to be the focal point. Coincidentally, serenity is a huge concept in the recovery world as well.  Those who know this movement will recognize the word from the abridged and succinct "Serenity Prayer" found in many twelve step and related meetings.  This prayer asks for serenity so that one has courage,  stillness and more importantly discernment. 

There began my research and serenity become my focus.

Now how about some honesty.  I wish I could just go on pontificating about serenity and come across insightful. is the disclaimer.  I  get way crazy sometimes, forget things and make weird mistakes even with all this yoga stuff under my belt.  Yes, it's true.  My mind runs in rapid circles of wild thoughts, loop stories and interesting but questionable realities. If I act on these random ideas, get lost in them or worse let them lead me on wild chases then my life turns to chaos.  I am certain many can relate to this challenge.  So, my findings come with a very human spin.  

What did my research reveal?  No mysterious short cut exists. It takes effort of a very particular kind.   One can't just decide one day to be serene, read a book on how to do it, listen to a podcast, talk oneself into it or  just think positive, hoping it happens.  The list goes on.  Nope! One will be thwarted in all these attempts.  Life may even get worse. 

Serenity involves developing particular actions on a regular daily basis or to use recovery terminology, one must practice certain steps in one's life.  It is a constant evolving practical journey.  Once we embark upon the undertaking, the goal of serenity and what we think it means becomes phantasmal.  We discover that the path of serenity is what we sought all along and the ultimate prize. 

What does the practice of serenity look like?  Setting an intention, living right, treating others and yourself with respect, learning how to be still and developing focus through meditation.  Yoga calls this journey the eight limb path. 

This weekend, down the coast in little Ninilchik Alaska,  our goal is share with you in yoga terms what the eight limb path might look like on a practical level.   Regardless of whether you are into  yoga or not, the universality of what we share will inspire and translate into your life.   At least we hope so.  Maybe, you will be there and we can talk about this in greater depth, better yet, maybe you will be there so we can practice this mystery together.  Just come as you are, and let's see what happens. 



On Traveling and Being Here Now

Travel!!! See the world around you.


Why bother?  It's true, you can probably find what you want and are looking for where you live as far as the comforts and modern conveniences of life.  But...seeing the world around you with feet on the ground teaches a profound lesson if you are open. just a little more. 


Curious about traveling and the boon of the road? Yes, then, continue reading.  Remember, this is just my experience, you will have to  pack your Patagonia Blackhole bag and see where you land to get what I am writing about.


As I hacked at these reflections on my last long trip, my darling wife and I were rolling across the Northwest from Vancouver back to Seattle riding leisurely in the lounge car of the Cascades Amtrak line (a wonderful way to travel).  We took eight days off from our lives in ANC and set out for a leisurely get away.  At first, it we wanted some far off destination with sunshine and maybe beaches  but honestly that's not really us.  We wanted to do the things we love most of which revolve around nice long eye gazing meals, artsy neighborhoods and random classes at chic yoga/fitness studio boutiques. 


Ultimately, we bought some inexpensive tickets to Seattle (only one jump away which for an Alaskan is important since it takes a lot of effort to leave this attached island), rented some hipster envy AirB@Bs and  added some international flare by getting return train tickets from Seattle to Vancouver.


Mind you,  we could theoretically in a certain sense do all the things here in Anchorage that we did on our trip.  It's true. Currently, we reside in a funky art cottage within in a artsy hood called Spenard. There, we know the groovy restaurants and what classes to take from the best instructors.  Still...there is something about going somewhere else and doing it all the same sort of way in a different context, most of all there is one lesson above all that doing this  teaches.


What is it? 


Learning to be where you are when you are there or as that joyous mystique Ram Das declares, "Be here now."


When traveling, one needs to be present to the details and open to the randomness that the road brings.  Sure you can plan everything to a perfect plan.  Many people do.  We probably know people who do this and we know how exhausting that can be.  I am referring to a different path. Instead, I am thinking about the journey  when you leave open moments for the magic to shine through.   One needs to plan enough to have a framework.  I absolutely agree that a certain amount of intention setting and organizing needs to be done so one can enjoy the trip without anxiety.  After this minimal planning,  it's essential just let it roll out before you and  enjoy every moment that you are in.  Or else, you will miss out on the miracles, the secret gems of discovery, the right restaurants off the guide books, the groovy streets that nobody ever talks about back home, the pleasure of meeting people you don't know and just those indescribable serendipitous moments that only a traveler knows. 


But...step off the present, start answering emails, texts, tagging oneself and guess what?  The now vanishes and the other worldly portals of the road grow dim.  To experience all that a trip brings one needs to be right there and attentive to the now of the journey.  I know this to be true and have been in awe of how things just worked out, and in honesty have also missed so much, focusing on "life" instead of being in the "it" of where I was at the time on all those trips over the years. 


So...what's the point?  Travel, let go of needing to be in control and see what everybody is telling you to see, step away from your guidebook and trip organizers then let yourself be free in the world of blessed coincidences.


Then, come back to where you are and bring this attentiveness to the moment with you. Be here now and let your life be one of openness.  


Om Shanti...