Watch this new documentary before the end of March for free. Learn and open your eyes to what you put in your body. This is a documentary that explains the detrimental effects of how aspartame metabolizes into FORMALDEHYDE in the body and can go to the brain. I was unknowingly ingesting formaldehyde through chewing ‘Excel’ gum to help me study through high school and my early University years. It made me so SICK. It took me 2 years to figure out what was causing my symptoms – and here, this documentary spells it out.

Diet drinks, artificial sugars and chemically altered foods cause disease, no doubt about it. Stay away from MSG – which is in about 80% of packaged modern “food” and know that there are at least 50 different labels for MSG. Read labels and be responsible for what you put in your body.

Share this and help others and yourself to live a more healthy, natural life πŸ™‚

http://www.hungryforchange.tv/online-premiere

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So it’s been a while since my last update. A lot has happened here at the ashram in that time.

Let me use this entry though, not to go through the daily activities of my journey but to talk about some realizations I’ve had since being here.

In the beginning, it was all new and exciting. At first I couldn’t believe I was really here, then it sunk in and I was excited to really dive into my yogic journey. As the past few weeks have gone by, I have had very challenging moments and well as challenging days – and also very beautiful moments and days as well.

We are at the end of a week long symposium where very special guests have come to the ashram to give spiritual talks. Thus far I have heard Adhi Moonien Two Owls speak of Mother Earth and the interconnectedness of everything; Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist monk and nun from India who talked about meditation and the quieting of the mind; Kabir speaking of Rumi and Suffism; Professor Nathan Katz who spoke of Islam; Stephane Vaillancourt who spoke to us about Christianity; and lastly, having the beautiful Kirtan singer Karnamrita Dasi here for new years eve and new years day performances. Each of these teachers taught me beautiful things. I was especially drawn to Karnamrita as we got along instantly and shared stories with each other as we prepared meals and chai tea.

Here is a link to one of her amazing performances:


http://youtu.be/XqJODcJSNiQ

I have also made some friends here… Some who have already gone and some who just arrived. I’ve been most captivated by a man I met who was in the North Tower of the Twin Towers wen 9/11 hit. He has some amazing stories to tell. He also survived a bad bus accident in Morocco in the mid-1980’s. I told him I was afraid to sit near him as I was sure that if an asteroid were to come down, it would only hit me and leave him unharmed! This is how his life story has been written to date.

Here are some of my lessons so far:

β€’ To have purity of thoughts, speech and deed. Thoughts have energy and can affect others around you as well as yourself.

β€’ Nature is perfect even in the smallest of scales. I sat after meditation on the beach one morning and picked up the tiniest sea shell I’ve ever seen. It was perfectly crafted by the sea and I was struck by its perfection. It was about 3mm small.

β€’ My greatest challenge so far has been on of contentment- of santosha. Simply being grateful for what I have now, who I am now and where I am now. I miss my partner back home a lot and being here is challenging in many regards and it has been easy to justify to myself 8,000 reasons to go home. But as my friend said to me a few days ago “stop planning exit strategies for yourself and just BE here. You came here for a reason” Well said. He also shared with me that I am not alone in my struggles here. With this contentment comes patience as well.

β€’ The days are long here and the food isn’t great. In fact I eat healthier at home. I had about 3 days after Christmas of feeling very down and uninspired and unmotivated. That rut I was in was gracefully interrupted by Karnamritas arrival and presence. She has beautiful energy and is so full of life. I am so grateful to have spent a few days with her.

β€’ Another friend of mine here was going through a few days of worrying so much of the future, so much so that he was missing the NOW. So let us be here now. Most of the worries we have in our minds never come true anyway and much of it is wasted energy. He was worried about what would happen after something that had not even happened yet and he realized how ridiculous it was! I laughed because I too, have done the same thing.

β€’ That some people coming here (and in all of life) have some really HEAVY stuff going on in their lives. People come here to grieve sometimes, as I heard one woman’s story who just lost her 20-something son to suicide late in 2011. I can’t even begin to imagine her pain. So there are those beautiful souls grieving- which is very healthy.

β€’ There are also other people here with very dark energy and one of my lessons is to allow their energy to be theirs and mine to be mine. To have compassion and understanding but to also be grounded and centered within myself. I have allowed a few people to affect me a bit and it’s within my control to not allow that to happen. I have witnessed some very toxic and dark energy from afar as well and I think I’ll keep my distance. πŸ™‚

β€’ Another lesson I’ve learned is that nothing will ever be perfect. I had a long morning one day working to serve breakfast and just wanted to go out and eat my own (then cold) breakfast at the edge of one of the docks here. It was sunny, the water was beautiful and I just wanted some space. As I walked to the dock, I realized that where I wanted to sit was all covered in bird shit. And so it was, that I laughed about it, brushed some of it away and sat amongst a bit of the shit to enjoy my food and the scenery. Just like my stay at the ashram – “come for some greatness, but not without a serving of crap on the side too.” Lol. And I think many situations in life is like this- where the saying “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” came from or, “nothing in life comes without a price”.

β€’ I have come to see that it’s all about perspective and again, having contentment with your situation. I could choose to focus on all the hard stuff, or I can choose to look at all the beautiful gifts I’ve been given, even through the challenges. It’s all about perspective and what you CHOOSE to focus on. We could all mope all day long because life is hard – we ALL have our stories. Instead, learn to process the hard stuff, learn lessons, be grateful, share the love and choose to live an awesome life! We are all eventually going to lose everything we have anyway. Everything in life is impermanent (at least in the physical world we know). So we can let go of attaching ourselves to things or people. We can let go of attaching out identities to our physical bodies, to our careers, activities, thoughts that pass, people we associate ourselves with. Ultimately we are all the same at the core, and all anyone wants is love. It’s alllll about love πŸ™‚

So let us spread the love by loving ourselves first, which I think comes partially from forgiveness of oneself. Also having compassion for your self. And then we can go forth through life with endless love for all things. This, in my mind would be a life of bliss, to love everything and to have the strength of spirit to have endless love even through difficult times.

β€’ The sea also taught me a lesson as I stared at it with soft eyes one afternoon. It’s just one wave after another. Just like the phases of life. It’s endless and it’s beautiful. So let’s ride the waves ~

Om Namah Sivaya ~

Much light and love,
– Tara πŸ™‚20120104-175022.jpg

I will likely be writing many of these in point form from now on to save time since I do not have much of it πŸ™‚

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I had the privilege of taking Kumar’s Meditation and Inner Peace workshops. He’s an amazing man who has helped me see things in a very special way (his given name is Tom Spector).
He was abused as a boy growing up and throughout his life he was able to turn the hatred and anger he had towards his father into love. He was able to hold compassion for him, even though he was physically abusive. He came to realize that the stuff his father did was his father’s karma, and not his own. Thus he learned to separate his own karma from others. He also came to realize that his self-esteem comes from nobody but himself and that it does not matter what anyone thinks of him. Because of the abuse he enured, he grew up to have very low self-esteem. He learned that we are all here on this planet to learn lessons and to heal ourselves. He also learned to keep the heart open, no matter what. The moment you close your heart, is the moment you cheat yourself from experiencing real love. However many of us do this – we close our hearts off to protect it. But in reality we’re making life so much harder for ourselves. He says to hold everyone ji your heart- even those who have caused you pain. Kumar went on to explain how we all create our own suffering. We create it in the mind- through thoughts, which may not truly be reality.

He also spoke of dropping your crap. Not a new concept but the way he illustrated it was hilarious. He stood from his chair, picked it up and mounted it on his back as he hunched to carry it. Then he walked around casually with this chair on his back symbolizing all the crap we sometimesΒ  carry around with us for no good reason. He then approached someone in the audience with the chair still on his back and said “hi, I’m Tom. I’d like to start a new relationship with you”, then laughed and said -“do I look ridiculous? Of course I look ridiculous!” He placed the chair back on the ground as he explained “it’s THAT easy! Just put it down and stop carrying it around with you. Just put it down.”

I bought his book and look forward to reading it. Simply hearing the sound of his voice puts me in an ultra relaxed state. He also is a great meditation teacher. He’s truly an amazing and inspirational man πŸ™‚

Om Shanti Kumar ~

Sunday night before I left I spent the entire night packing my life into 3 bags.

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My flight was Monday, December 12 at 6:10am and Mom drove me to the airport for the flight. We left the house at 4:15am and arrived at the airport about an hour and 40 mins before my flight. I almost didn’t make my flight as the lineup for U.S. immigration was absolutely massive! Standing and waiting in that stagnant line by myself, I started getting butterflies in my stomach that I would miss my flight to New Jersey. I asked the woman in front of me if she was also on the 6:10am flight and she said no, that she was on the 6:55am flight. She offered to let me go I front of her in line as I told her I was starting to really worry. She was very friendly and was on her way to Thailand for a year after quitting her job! Very cool. I’m so grateful that she let me in front as I only made my flight with 7 minutes to spare! Thank god I made that flight. We took off in a very small aircraft and I fell asleep after watching my last Canadian sunrise until March. Wait, that’s a lie- I’m never up early enough to catch sunrise, I don’t know what I’m talking about πŸ˜‰

I watched the burning red horizon line grow brighter and stronger as we took off, as daylight began to pour into the city. I watched the lights in early morning Ottawa fade away slowly and grow ever smaller and smaller as we lifted into he dark sky above.

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Sleeping for an hour on that flight was much needed and not hard to do since I had not slept Sunday night at all. Those who know me know that I love my 8-10 hrs of sleep every night πŸ˜‰ Once I arrived in New Jersey I had a short 1.25 hr layover for my flight into Nassau. The NJ airport was a bit strange and I had to take a ghetto shuttle bus over to Terminal C to catch my flight. I had a first class seat for this flight which was awesome. They served us a large egg breakfast meal which was very well received by my tummy and I fell asleep again on this flight after eating the better-than-expected airplane food. Although, I did NOT eat the mystery meat patty that was on top of my eggs lol. I woke from my nap as we began our descent into Nassau. I opened my window to see the BEAUTIFUL turquoise-blue waters below, speckled with islands. NOW it hit me, what I was doing. What I had imagined in my mind for 6 months was now materializing. I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear looking down on this beautiful planet we live on.

The Nassau airport was so ghetto! I went through security and got approved for 100 days in the country – we actually only get a 90day travel visa for the Bahamas as Canadians. So that went smoothly but then as I began to look for my luggage, no screens said “New Jersey” on them, so I asked an employee and she pointed to the luggage belt that had no one around it and also no bags at all. I was one of the last through security so I began to worry. Five minutes later I found my luggage on a belt that didn’t say my airline or city of origin. This was my first lesson in how things would likely go – island time style, and island “lax” style of doing things. Cool. At least I got my luggage!

I called the ashram to tell them I was on my way so they would send a boat to the dock to meet me and take me across the water to the ashram. The ashram is situated next to the grand Atlantis resort. I got a cool cab driver and immediately upon driving away from the airport I remembered how islanders tend to drive – somewhat erratically compared to American or Canadian standards! He drove on the left side of the road, as they do in the Bahamas since they were a British Colony and actually only got independence in 1978 I believe. BUT what is strange is that about half of the cars have the driver side on the left, not on the right. I also noticed that about half the cars have VERY banged up bumpers lol… I guess that IS what they are meant for!? Lol

So I got to the ashram after driving through downtown Nassau and taking the small boat which was unmarked when it arrived at the dock. The driver of the boat said nothing to us, but I assumed he was from the ashram. This man is just a bit crusty I guess – most everyone else so far has been very friendly.

My first day and a half here I spent setting up my tent and resting. Since i was still only on about 2 hrs sleep, i was eager to sleep very long on Monday night. They let me miss evening satsang so I could sleep. Of course one of the first things i did was I walked down to the beach which was absolutely fantastic! We can eat our meals facing out to the South facing beach as well, which I have done a few times. It’s very soothing and relaxin and beautiful to watch.

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Once my tent was set up, I realized again how this fabric “house” would be my home and place to rest for 3 whole months. I believe the longest I have spent in a tent otherwise has been 5 days maybe? Lol, this will definitely be something to get used to.

Tuesday morning I attended my first satsang, which was so wonderful. I was still a bit tired, especially to wake up at 5:30am.

The reason I came on this journey was to really immerse myself into yoga. The complete yogic lifestyle consists of taking care of the body though proper diet (lacto vegetarian here, which means veggie with dairy), proper exercise (asana class), proper breathing (pranayam) and proper rest (sleep). As well, we work on the mental and spiritual sides of ourselves. We learn to begin to control the mind and the thoughts that we allow to be in the mind. We strive to be free of egoism, greed, lust, envy, jealousy, anger and hatred. We strive to purify the mind through letting go of attachments and desires in life. It is said that attachment and desire are the two catalysts of suffering.

We seek to be filled with gratitude, love, a balanced mind and equal vision. Being non judgmental with ourselves or others is also a part of a purified mind.

Our daily schedule is something like the following:

5:30am Wake to bells
6-6:30am Silent meditation in the temple
6:30-7:30am Satsang (or kirtan) followed by a talk by one of the leaders of the ashram. They talk about the spiritual teachings and writings from Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda.
7:40am Staff meeting
8am start work or attend morning yoga class
10am Brunch
(work through the mid day)
4pm Afternoon yoga class
6pm Dinner
8pm Evening silent meditation and satsang until 10pm
10:30pm Lights out

As a Karma Yogi here for this advanced program (3-month commitment) we are required to attend the morning and evening satsang as well as work 5-6 hrs a day. We are also to maintain daily yoga practice and also take time to study.

The days here are very packed. That said, I’m ready for bed as I worked more than my share today -Mariann and I were non-stop today from morning satsang until 6:30pm. It was a very long day in the city today… I will write more about this tomorrow.

For now, here’s a list of amaziness and a list of my challenges:

AMAZING THINGS:
– being in The Bahamas
– being surrounded by yogis
– looking out at the beautiful ocean every day
– meeting people from all over the world
– daily satsang is my favorite!
– meeting other Canadians here πŸ™‚
– meeting and talking with the locals who are very friendly!
– exploring Atlantis!
– being on a journey of a lifetime
– realizing a dream I have had for some time now
– snorkeling and seeing all the fishies πŸ™‚
– meeting great spiritual leaders
– making friends in an unknown land
– growing every day from this experience

Challenges so far:
– being surrounded by yogis lol
– sleeping on the floor in a tent with no mattress beneath (my first two days here my back hurt so much and I had a pinched nerve in the back of my left leg, making forward folds very painful)
– being away from the comforts of home
– noise around us at night from passing party boats, fireworks, sirens, etc
– adjusting to the new sleep schedule of waking up at 5:30am. I have already slept through one morning satsang 😦
– keeping the faith in what I am doing here
– having thoughts of not wanting to stay for 3 whole months
– working a lot and finding the time to do my daily asana practice
– dealing with some crusty people here isn’t pleasant
– being a part of a somewhat disorganized and very slowwww organization

Despite the challenges, I am so grateful for where I am right now and I know it’s not going to be an easy journey the whole way through. I have to give myself a few weeks to settle into the rhythm of things and I hope by then things will feel much better.

I thank everyone in my life for all the support- friends, family, yoga students and fellow teachers as well as my many bosses. This would be so much harder without all the support I have received, so with all my heart, I thank you all.

Watch out for Part 3 coming soon πŸ™‚

Much light and love,
Tara

So my journey to the ashram for 90 days is now well underway. I have been here in Nassau at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat for almost 5 days now. It has already been amazing and hard at times too. I will be staying in my tent for the duration of my time here- which is something to get used to for sure.

Let me rewind time first and talk about my weeks before I arrived. In the weeks leading up to my departure I was busy preparing to leave – booking flights, researching travel insurance, buying camping gear; and also Christmas shopping and having early Christmas dinners with my family; as well as tying up all lose ends with the classes I was teaching and setting up substitute teachers for while I will be away. It was a very busy time and I certainly had a lot on my plate. A few days before I left Canada, our family received some horrible news that my brothers dog died during the night.

Her name was Daisy and she really was like a family dog- we would take care of her for months at a time sometimes and she really loved being up at the cottage where she could run around free and chase sticks and birds and squirrels. We had her for almost 10 years- a whole decade with her in our lives. I have never been closer to a dog before and I cried for almost 2 full days when I found out the news of her passing upon waking the morning of Thursday, Dec 8, 2011.

I couldn’t believe how much it hurt to lose a dog- to know that I’ll never see her again and the fact that it was so abrupt brought a shock factor. She was in perfect health so it came from left field. I can’t even imagine how lonely my brother and his wife must feel without her presence in the house. She was so loved and loving herself. She will truly be missed. I thank her for all the good times she gave me- pulling me on my longboard, chasing snowballs into endless banks of snow, chasing bubbles by the campfire and just being an amazing cuddle buddy.

Okay, back to the story of my journey here. On the weekend before I left I spent it with my boyfriend, Robin and we had an early Christmas together – which was amazing. I would actually like to take a moment to thank all of my family for giving me early Christmas dinners and celebrations- it was all so amazing! I truly feel like Christmas is over already and it’s still a week away.

One of the challenges I’ve been having since I got to the ashram I the realization that I’m here for 3 whole months. It feels surreal. It’s all perspective on how long three months really is. To some it’s a really long time but for others it’s not so long. I’ve already had people at the ashram thinking im crazy for being here this long and I’ve also had a woman tell me hat I should stay for a year to get free yoga teacher training (which isn’t going to happen..lol).

But every morning I wake up to realize again where I am and what I’m doing here. It feels like an eternity to be away from my partner but it feels like no time at all to be away from the rest of my life. In fact the hardest part about being here so far for me is knowing that Robin and I will be apart for 3 months and I known I’m going to miss him a lot. But nothing in life that is worth anything comes without challenges and I believe that this will only make our relationship stronger. He has been a great support so far and were hoping that he will get a chance to come spend a week in the Bahamas with me when I’m done the program in March. I will certainly need a vacation from this yoga “vacation”.

… More to come…

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Wow! What an experience it was today to be teaching Yoga to 300 people on Parliament Hill! Absolutely beautiful outside in the sunshine, beautiful people and beautiful energy!

My yoga journey began over a decade ago when I first started practicing while in High School. Yoga always spoke to me – it was a different approach than I had ever experienced in life. Yoga brought a mindfulness and stillness to my teenage life – which was both necessary and incredibly healing. As the years passed, I dabbled in yoga, pilates and meditation and almost lost my Yoga practice while attending University to earn my undergraduate degree. Life throws curveballs sometimes and my life was hit with a big one in my early 20’s. To heal and re-centre myself, I left my degree and moved to Whistler, B.C. for almost 2 years. It was during my time spent in Whistler that I reconnected with Yoga and through a very special teacher, I was able to find solace in my Yoga practice. It was along this journey that I realized the incredible transformational power that Yoga can have on one’s life. I then began thinking of teaching Yoga myself – how much I loved the practice and wanted to delve deeper and get a better understanding of this ancient tradition.

A few years later, after returning to my home city of Ottawa to complete the University degree which I had left, I began exploring Yoga centres and teacher training opportunities. PranaShanti Yoga Centre was the only Yoga studio that turned up on the search engine results when I searched for β€œYoga teacher training scholarships in Ottawa”. All of my energies then poured into learning about PranaShanti and about the program the Centre was offering. I applied for the PranaShanti Hatha Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship in June, 2010 and crossed my fingers with all my might that I would be granted admission to the program. A few weeks later I received an email granting my admission and I was so ecstatic – I knew that this would be a life changing experience – and it was. PranaShanti offers a very special training in that Module 1 of training is a week-long intensive by the water, about an hour from Ottawa. It was a special sanctuary for learning and personal reflection – something that I had never experienced before. Each day we began with a 6am meditation, followed by a Yoga (asana) class and then breakfast together. The day would continue with various teachings and discussions and healthy vegetarian meals. The days were full and truly blissful – and I slept very well at night from taking so much in! The retreat was a unique experience in that I really had no worries in my day. No emails to check, no phone calls to answer, nowhere to commute to, no rush hour. We were allowed to enjoy a simple life of discussion, readings, reflection and Yoga practice. I enjoyed taking in the silence and seclusion of the space where we were – it allowed for a deep personal reflection and contemplation. This first Module of the training gave me a safe space for self-growth and personal transformation – in addition to the textbook teachings the trainers offer.

 

 

Β Leaving Module 1 I had mixed feelings – I was sad that the experience of the retreat was over, but I was also excited to take these teachings into my real life. It was an emotional ride but I knew that we would all reunite in the seven weekends spent together in Module 2 of training. One of the greatest things I took from Module 1 training was awareness in how I relate with the world around me. I became lifted – more aware and much more compassionate with myself and with others. The training continued through home study, taking many yoga classes and attending the series of seven weekends at the Centre from August – November. Each weekend spent together we would reconnect and share experiences with each other about applying our new Yogic knowledge in our daily lives. It was wonderful to learn as a group and have the support from others going through a similar process.

This training gave me awareness and the tools to confidently begin a life as a Yoga teacher. I currently teach between 12 and 16 classes per week and I absolutely love it! I get to share my passion with my students and help them along their wellness path. Without PranaShanti Teacher Training, I would not be where I am today. I am so grateful to have had the experience in the teacher training and learning from all the teachers who gave their passion and energies into the training. A new level of awareness is what I now have in my life and I know that everyday is a new day and I will continue to grow as a Yoga teacher. PranaShanti Hatha Yoga Teacher truly strikes a perfect balance between the two Modules: a deep immersion and the chance to integrate the teachings into your every day life through the seven weekends. If you are thinking about Yoga Teacher Training, know that this training will be life changing, uplifting, sometimes challenging and hugely rewarding!

Shine on my friends,

– Tara πŸ™‚