Saturday, July 1, 2017

July's Theme: NURTURE!

JULY 2017
"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it."
- John Lennon

How was the theme of "NURTURE" not come up yet? I went back through my emails and blogs because I found it hard to believe, but this is the first month we are receiving the message to "NURTURE." So, what does that mean? Nurturing is simply applying consistent care and encouragement towards the development of something. Usually we tend to equate nurturing outward towards another being, especially to a baby or child. Proper nurturing of a small life is certainly very important to his or her development. But what we do tend to forget most often is nurturing ourself. How else do we have the energy and vitality in which to care for another? And yet, there it is...

If you have developed a regular yoga practice, you probably understand what it means to nurture. You realize without your practice, your body, mind, emotions, and other aspects of the self start to deteriorate in some way. The yoga practice is a complete way of caring and tending to something sacred and important for yourself and for others.

Now what other ways can you nurture yourself? This question can be a different answer depending on the person, but take a moment to ask it. "How do I nurture myself?" The answer should come easy to you. If not...uh-oh...we have some work to do! And summertime is an excellent time of year for it too. We just passed the Summer Solstice, so the second half of the year and a slow winding down of solar energy now begins to occur. There is a subtle energy movement inward. We may not feel it until the Autumn Equinox because the sun's energy is so prevalent at the moment, but its there. Taking a well-deserved vacation can be a nurturing thing to do. Making time to rest at home with friends and loved ones, taking time to nap, read, get a massage, take a bath, or just sit and enjoy the sites and sounds of nature - these are all very nurturing things. Maybe you can think of some more for you.

For those who like the idea of receiving a massage, I am now back to hosting them at the studio and is now taking appointments. 

Whatever you do, consider what nurtures not only your body, but your mind and your soul. July should be a month of self-love and care in as many creative ways that you can dream up!

In Love & Light,
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

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Tracey's Message:

I love the idea of nurturing. I even do it sometimes too! All joking aside, I always have been one to nurture myself in some way. I realized long ago the importance of taking care of myself so that I have the energy to do for others. Its no secret that I've been working through some challenges the first half of the year, which forced me to slow down. Even though I did tend to move at a rapid pace, I always convinced myself that because I got a monthly massage or took a day off here or there that I was nurturing myself too. I've learned that nurturing is a constant effort; however, one that is important to do daily, not just once a month!

I've integrated morning meditations and daily chanting into my practice for about six months now. It has really helped me nurture my body, mind and soul in a more complete way. Of course I've always told other people to meditate, but I never really took the time to do it myself with regularity. Now, I find my day is not complete without it. If I skip doing it because of a schedule conflict, I really feel the difference. Meditation can be that nurturing element for you if you find yourself unavailable to do the physical practices anymore or at least at the moment. But even if you don't do the postures, you can still come in to any yoga class, lie down, breathe and soak up the energy of our themed classes. You'll be surprised how much you can get out of just being at the studio in a class.

I've also recently found a connection to Angel guides. I never thought that this energy would be so healing and nurturing to me. I've started integrating Angel cards and readings into my regular yoga classes for an added nurturing element for students too. Everyone has found it comforting to know that the angels are around us during our practice, providing each person with a special message or reminder in which to focus on during class. 

And, in addition, I've decided to put a focus on my massage and energy work again. These modalities took a backseat to my teaching yoga for a long time, but I remembered how nurturing performing therapeutic massage also was for me as well as the recipient. You can see my appointment times on the flyer below, but if those times don't work for you, call or email me to talk more. I may have other availability depending on the week.

So if you are looking to nurture yourself, come see me at the studio in July for some of these special things. Or, if you know someone who could benefit from some of these nurturing items, contact me to purchase a gift card! Nurture away!

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer, Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June's Theme: DREAM!

According to the father of yoga, Patanjali, swapna or dream is a level of consciousness. Famous psychologist Sigmund Freud said that "the day's residue is transformed by dream work into a dream and made innocuous by sleep." Some people do not remember their dreams, others claim they do not dream. And then there are those who dream in full feature film - with musical underscore, dramatic tensions, chase scenes and more. 

For those that dream frequently and can remember their dreams (even if just upon awakening), you can try keeping a dream journal by your bed. Before stirring to much, write down your dream while it is fresh. If you notice a pattern emerging, then your dreams may hold a deeper picture for you coming from your unconscious mind. For those who do not remember dreams but want to, you can try setting an intention to remember your dreams before bed, and meditate on that intention just before retiring for the evening.

And then there is daydreaming - the type of dream where you find yourself, mid-day, caught in a fantasy world. Sometimes daydreams are reality based - dreaming of a life you want to live - while others it is complete fantasy. Either way, who is to say that what you are dreaming about cannot happen?

If you find that you are spending time (in a sleep state or awake) dreaming about the same thing, perhaps it is time to make it your reality. Perhaps what you are dreaming about is not as far out of reach as you think it is? In fact, perhaps it is right there literally waiting for you to wake up!

Children dream of many things. As adults, unfortunately, for some reason many people have gotten to a place where they may feel that dreams are a waste of time. What if we focus on our dreams for the month of June? What if we keep a log of them and at the end of the month see if there is a reoccurring theme that just might have a place in your reality? Let's not ignore the energies of these higher levels of vibration. Dreams speak to us if we only can take the time to listen.

In Love & Light,
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

* * * * * * * * * * *

Most of my childhood can be summed up as a daydream. No matter where I was or who I was with, I was able to dream a little dream and create a slice of heaven on earth. Today I have to admit, I still do it. As most of you know, I drive an hour to work. Instead of listening to music, I often drive without the radio on. Every day, by the time I have gotten to work, I have created a lovely little daydream, and then I set about creating the positive aspects into my reality.

The fact remains that there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that I would like to. And since I am trying to honor not being as busy as I have been in the past, I am finding that I get less done than I used to. But this is okay for me. I am also realizing that not everything has to be done in the moment that my mind creates it and that some times the best things come with time and patience. 

My step-daughter just graduated from college and every graduation card that I read stated a similar message of never letting go of the graduate's dreams. I felt a little sad as I thought about what that was basically saying - that as adults we tend to abandon our dreams? You know, life is not over...until its over! We still have plenty of time to carry through with our dreams. I feel it is important to get to it, however, before it is too late. And that is something that I've personally gotten back to recently. 

There were two themes for young Tracey. If you asked me what I wanted to be I would say, "a magician" or "a writer." The writing came a little later on, but my littlest self believed in magic. I still do. I still believe we all have the capacity to create magic. I work with these energies every day and it is a constant part of my life that I have never given up on. I'm not saying that I am always able to achieve in manifesting magical energy, but every now and then, I do amaze myself! And as for writing, I have already shared that I am getting back to that too. In fact, I am currently in the middle of writing three different books! Yes, keeping the dream alive!

What did the little you want to be? What did you believe in? What did you dream about? Is it time to get back to living it? ...If not now, when?

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Energies of Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

The following contains the transcript of the Energies of Easter Island Video that I created using mostly photos from my recent journey to this special place. The link to the video should be attached below. I welcome you to follow my journey...In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer

Easter Island Video Voice-over:

Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, south of the tropic of Capricorn, sits “Rapa Nui,” or more famously known as “Easter Island.” The island itself is only about 64 square miles with a large portion of it uninhabitable due to various issues that they experienced throughout their history. 2250 miles from the nearest Polynesian island of Pitcairn, and 2340 miles from the Chilean South American mainland, it is often referred to as one of the most remotely inhabited islands on planet earth. The local airport receives just two flights a day and it currently hosts no ports for transport ships along its shoreline. Reaching Rapa Nui is no small feat, and not for the meek or inexperienced traveler. For some reason I had this pull - a calling - to go there.

            Most people had no idea where Easter Island was when I told them where I was going or even afterwards when I returned home did they understand where I had been. But as soon as I showed anyone a picture of any one of the monolithic statues found there, every person realized that they had seen these famous Moais before…somewhere…

            The Moai are a fascinating part of the history of Easter Island and one of the main reasons that I did want to travel there. With somewhere between 800-1000 of them created, the history and intention behind them still remains quite vague. Most archeologists agree that the majority (about 95%) of the Moai were created of Rano Raraku tuff, mostly from the volcano of the same name in what is referred to as “the quarry” there. There are about 55 other Moai that were created from a more dense white stone found on a different piece of the island. The Moai range in size from 6-33 feet high and could often be found on a platform called an Ahu were as many as 15 could be found aligned in a row.

            Most of the Moai were originally erected to face into a village; with the exception of a few that faced the sea. But all of the statues hold the gaze of their eyes slightly upward – looking towards the sky. Another name for the island is Mata-ki-te-Rangi, which means “eyes towards the heavens.” Some say that the Moai were created in the images of past kings. Others argue that they represented different important people of the villages. None of them are said to have had the name of a deity. Much of these facts surprised me because my thoughts before going to Easter Island were that the Moai faced the sea in a way of protecting the island and that they did take on the image of a god due mostly to their size and ambiguity. One thought that an explorer named Geiseler reported about the Moai in 1882 was that they were highly respected and thought to have special attributes and possess great powers. Why else would a people create and move so many similar monolithic statues in such a short period of time, completely deforesting their island in the process? The only explainable reason is that they were highly significant to the ancient people. But the real reasons behind the creation and placement of the Moai still remain somewhat of a mystery. And that completely fascinates me.

            The fact is that Rapa Nui is an enigma. Although it is a highly respected theory by historians that the early Polynesians found and populated the island, there remains little hard evidence to prove when or how this may have happened. Much of the history of the island has been wiped out - largely because of the Christian Missionaries who came and removed much evidence of their prior culture, partly due to the Peruvian slave traders that at one time kidnapped all but about 100 Rapa Nui and forced them into slavery, and also due to various catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis. And that’s just what we know of and is agreed upon by mainstream scientists and historians.

            There are many other more recent theories about Rapa Nui that are not being grandly accepted, but warrant a deeper look nonetheless.

            Popular theories say that Easter Island was formed by three separate volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor beneath the Nazca tectonic plate between 1 million and 100,000 years ago. The last of the volcanoes is said to have erupted some 10,000 years ago. And it is thought that the island was not settled by humans until sometime between 600 and 900 AD, with most of the Moai being carved around 1000-1600 AD. This is the popular historical opinion.

            But what if the history that we are being told is only a portion of the story? Or better yet, what if it is simply untrue?

            Back in the early 1920’s, a topographer named Sir Alfred Watkins noticed when he was surveying the prehistoric landscape in Britain that there were certain alignments, which he termed as “ley lines” running through the planet. He found that a huge number of archeological sites from different periods were formed along these ley lines. And he went about mapping them out on the planet, creating what is now referred to as a planetary energy grid. The same ley line that tracks through Egypt and the various sites of many ancient Egyptian archeological sites travels straight into Easter Island. In fact, Easter Island is situated on a major energy vortex connecting at least 10 other ley lines on the planet! The Name “Rapa Nui” translates to “Naval of the World.” The lone found archeological reference to this naval is a circular stone found on the island that legend says was brought by the first settler and king, Hatu Matu’a, who brought it from a mythical island. The stone is said to possess much manas, which is spiritual powers bestowed by the gods, and thus bears the secrets of the Universe inside of it. It is said to be “the one who collects the most important spiritual energy of the earth.” Unfortunately today the rock, with the four other smaller stones of similar matter, is contained in a rock wall and guarded by someone from the National Park. So that you cannot touch it to feel any energy that it may contain.

            Regardless, it was my personal experience that the island’s energy is extremely potent and palpable from all areas and those who are sensitive to energy will no doubt feel various different sensations – from heat to vibrations and more – throughout their discovery of the island. My friend and travel companion, Suzy, felt immense heat generating from the core of her body for our entire stay on the island. For myself, I felt my own being vibrating with the island. Certain sites, and particularly the Ahu where many fallen Moai were left abandoned, radiated a vibratory energy that completely disoriented me at times. I was careful to respect the National Park’s warning not to touch the Moai directly. However, whenever I had a chance to get up close and put my hands on the rocks surrounding it, or on a similar unmarked stone formation found randomly in a field, I was quick to do so. Each location did offer its very own sensation to me, validating my feelings that it was more than any of my own physical issues such as low blood sugar or headaches that I had been experiencing since a concussion. The fact is that I left the island healed of any lingering issues that I had from my accident. There is vital and healing energy in the island, my friends, and there is much more to discover, for sure.

            Some theorists suggest that the island was used as a location site by extra-terrestrials, and point to evidence such as the upward gaze of the Moai that appear to be looking at the sky, or the fact that how these monolithic statues were actually moved without destruction to their relatively soft material. Regardless of one’s feelings on the idea that extraterrestrials visited or were a part of creating significant statues on Easter Island, I found it interested that NASA extended the airstrip to be able to receive the space shuttle, and also has a facility there that they supposedly used to use to monitor the movements of the Nazca tectonic plate, which creeps approximately 2 cm closer to the South American mainland every year. This NASA facility has been completely abandoned and holds another eerie mystery as to why, if the Nazca plates are still moving significantly each year, they decided to abandon the monitoring of this movement on the island. Or, was there another reason for their presence there?

            Other scholars such as Graham Hancock and Colin Wilson now also suggest that Easter Island may have once been part of a far larger island and that the original discovery and use of the site may actually be thousands of years earlier in time that predates the great floods. The theory states that twelve thousand years ago when the great ice caps of the last glaciation were still largely un-melted, and sea level was 100 meters lower than it is today, it would have formed a chain of antediluvian islands as long as the Andean mountain range. If this is true, and Easter Island was a part of a much larger landmass, then it could have been the site of an astronomical observatory of an ancient and forgotten civilization. Even more interesting is the theory that the melting of the ice caps also occurred with several cataclysmic events such as crustal displacement, which changed the actual topography of the planet, so that sites such as Easter Island would have very well been located at quite a different location on the planet several thousand of years ago. If this is true, then the evidence of such ancient civilizations could have been lost into the sea…forever…

            …which brings me to just that. The sea. The relentless pulsation of life energy that crashes upon the shores of Rapa Nui daily, offering no sign of relief is hypnotic, to say the least.

            I spent time every day – several times a day, in fact – gazing into the sea just as I imagined the earlier Rapa Nui had done. I imagined living on the island a long time ago when there was no way on or off, and that the 64 square miles would have been all that anyone living there would have known of as the world. It literally was their entire world. They would have spent a lot of time watching the sea, the sunrise and sunset, the moon and the stars, wouldn’t they have? I know that I did.

            In fact, being on East Island allowed me to retune my body to the earth’s energy because it was literally all that I had. The five elements are heartily available on the island. And if there is one constant in my life it is my continued focus on living my life in tune with the natural elements of our planet.

            The first element is Fire, which is represented as the entire island. Fire created this volcanic island, after all. Fire is the spark of creation, the energy of transformation. What was once hot, liquid fire hardened over time to create the land that I was sitting on – the land that stuck out of the sea in a sacred triangular formation. Fire is an intense energy that is associated with heat, of course, which explains my empathic friend’s complete absorption of heat the entire time that we visited. The sun is also related to the element fire. And as I have said, we spent every day attending to the appreciation of the sun, probably just as the ancients had done. We always watched the sun set. We sometimes caught the sunrise. We always knew were the sun was. And although we were not there long enough to notice any significant transits, I realized that the ancients must have done just that. They would have recognized any differentiation of location of the sun immediately. Many of the Ahu where the Moai are set up align to the rising sun of the equinoxes or solstices. So, yes, they were aware and they acknowledged this ball of pranic fire in the sky by erecting great statues in its honor. Yes, fire is ever present.

            The second element is Earth. The hardening of liquid fire is earth, but it is also the foundation of our entire planet and associated with all of the life that exists on it. Because of the remoteness of Rapa Nui and the deforestation that devastated much of the land, there are very few native animals or birds to the island. Upon arrival, our host told us that there were no bugs. While we did find some, the fact was that there were not many. There are also no snakes or reptiles, except for one small lizard. There are some birds, but not as many as back when the Birdman Cult thrived on the island. As for other mammals, wild horses and cattle roam freely about today, but all animals have been brought to the island from the mainland. Wherever life comes from, the reality is that you notice it when you see it. At home back in NJ most people do not stop to watch the wildlife or better yet, to honor it. In Easter Island I found there was never a time that I did not acknowledge life when I saw it, for it was so special. And special also is the rock that jutted out of the ocean upon which we stood. Were it not for that peace of rock/earth being there, the island would not exist at all. There is a major conservation effort to bring back areas of the island and I want to say that at least half of the island is in that active rehabilitation zone. Many historians and scientists refer to Easter Island as a cautionary tale for our planet, calling it a microcosm of planet earth and using it as a perfect example of what can happen due to overpopulation and pillaging of the planet’s natural resources – things that many have warned us about for years – and today what many more are now very concerned about as a growing reality seems to be emerging that we are closer than ever before to needing to find a new planet in order for our specious to continue to be. I strongly feel that every person on our planet should have an experience such as living on a remote island like Easter Island to fully appreciate what the earth has to offer us, and to understand the significance of needing to know how we can work together as beings on this same rock to ensure that its life continues for eons to come.

            Air is the third element. Air is much prevalent here for it is windy just about everywhere that you travel. There was never a moment when I was outside on the island where I did not feel the existence of air. From a small breeze to a gusty wind, air is there to remind one of flow. While the earth may provide a stable foundation, the air reminds us not to get stagnant. Air or wind is the breath of life. Without air in our bodies, we would not be alive because there would be no breath. Rapa Nui’s breath is ever present, inhaling and exhaling all around you – breathing you in and breathing you out – there is no escape until you hunker down inside a residence or establishment, and even then, the presence of air can usually be heard rapping against the building. I did a lot of deep breathing on Easter Island. And as a yoga teacher, I knew that this would keep me present in the moment – grounded and centered. But what I did not fully understand until after I left was how connected I had become to the pulsation of the island through the air. It’s essence literally blew into me - and I became one with it.

            The fourth element is water, and that is certainly present since as an island the sea surrounds the entire landmass. Like the wind, this element is relentless as it pounds the shore on every side daily. This has no doubt caused a change in the shape of the shoreline, since the volcanic stone is relatively soft and carve-able. No matter what part of the island you are in, if you are near the shore, you can hear the roar of the sea and watch the spray. As waves crash in and flow back out, producing a trancelike state when you allow yourself the time to sit and watch. This meditative state brings calmness amongst the raging energy of the sea - and this dichotomy creates a surreal feeling like no other I have ever experienced. The rational mind or ego may want one to be afraid of this unapologetic energy, but the presence of Oneness that is felt reminds he or she that all is just fine. In fact, all is freakin’ amazing!

            And that brings me to the final element: Ether. Ether is that ever-present, mystical and magical energy that connects all: this is the embodiment of Rapa Nui itself. From the first site of the island from above, as the clouds parted, God was present. At sunrise and sunset, God was seen. Every Moai and Ahu – whether it had been re-erected or was still lying facedown and fallen in pieces, held an undeniable essence and energy. The palpitations and vibrations of the place inspire a feeling of love, compassion and appreciation for all. It is truly a magnificent and life-changing experience to have been there. I am forever grateful for all of the pieces that landed in place in order for me to be able to visit. One of the most famous explorers and historians to have spent time on Easter Island was a woman named Katherine Routledge. In 1919 she wrote, “In Easter Island…the shadows of the departed builders still posess the land…the whole air vibrates with a vast purpose and energy which has been and is no more. What was it? Why was it?” I myself, felt this same vast purpose and energy, and know that it will one day reveal much knowledge that will be helpful for us as a species.

            I hope to one-day return to Easter Island. I feel that I will. There are many mysteries that still surround the place. I am confident that we are on the precipice of understanding more than ever before some of the ancient origins – such as the Rongo Rongo language which survived on only 25 tablets, all of which have been removed from the island, and of which today are still mostly undecipherable.

            The island still requires tender loving care. Mass tourism threatens the archeological sites as well as the life of the island. I understand the recent regulations to keep people off or limit access to certain sites. Perhaps if we became more loving as a species, more understanding of our place on the planet, this would not be an issue. It was my personal experience that spending time on Easter Island certainly assured me of the understanding of my place on our planet.

            “Naval of the world.” That is for certain.

            In much gratitude…and until I return again…


Chanting to the Mother Goddess, Ma Durga

On my chanting journey this year I began chanting to Ma Durga on April 10th, the day that I was to embark on a journey of a lifetime to one of the most remote places on planet earth: Easter Island.

My Durga Incense wafting above my alter to the Mother, herself.

I spent the day preparing to leave for my trip by spending time with my dogs, emailing teachers and students, setting things up for my 10-day vacation, and of course, setting up my new alter to Durga. It seems funny to me now that Durga has not been a regular goddess of mine. I chant and create many alters to different goddess to invoke their energies all the time. I had spend lots of time independently with Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati, and yet, the energy to invoke all of those energies as one - Durga - never came to be for me until recently.

It is said that Durga's primary function is to fight demons who threaten the stability of the cosmos. She is depicted as riding a fierce lion and wielding many weapons. She is also associated with Lord Shiva, as another one of his wives. But she is most known as not being submissive to any male deity, not fulfilling household duties, and that excelling at what is traditionally thought of as being a more masculine function: fighting in battle. I like Durga.

The most famous story of Durga involves a demon named Mahisa. Mahisa was so fierce and strong that none of the other gods could defeat him. So, the gods got together and used their own body parts to create another deity: Durga. They gave her weapons and the strength of the gods in which to destroy Mahisa. And so she did, it is said, "causing the earth to shake."

The Hindu celebration of Navaratri is the 9 nights associated with celebrating Durga in her many forms. I had celebrated Navaratri many times in the tradition of three nights to each of her qualities (Kali, Lakshmi & Saraswati, respectfully). And now I was calling upon her for the first time in her main form, to be with my on my journey and in life.

* * *

I created an alter at home for Durga, but also a traveling alter to take with me to Chile. Each morning after I awoke and prepared for my day, I would chant to Durga. Like the other deities who I began chanting for, I decided to keep it simple at first. After all, I had a lot going on with traveling, and I did not want to feel overwhelmed with long or detailed chants. So I began with her simplest one:

Om Dum Durgayei Namaha - which simply means, "Salutations to the combined powers of Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Kali for protection."

Traveling so far from home as a woman can be challenging. But I always create positive intentions and protection around me when I am abroad. Chanting to Durga gave me the opportunity to start each day with the feminine powers that she embodies: that of strength and individualism. I feel that these were qualities especially needed on my trip to Easter Island. And, in fact, there were several times when I chanted to her in the middle of the day just to help focus my intentions during a difficult moment. There is a funny comment in a video from our trip when my friend is driving in the jeep and we are surrounded by wild horses who do not want to move or get out of our way. What you cannot see on the video is that we just went through a herd of cattle who also were reluctant to move out of our way. My friend was nervous with the pointed horns of the cattle, but was less rattled about the horses. So since the mood was a little lighter, I began chanting out loud to Durga to remove the obstacles in our path. Not more than a moment after beginning my chant, the horses parted and we were able to sneak through them. I like to think that was not by accident.

Durga's strength and courage led me well on my trip until we arrived safely back in the United States. That almost didn't happen one day because I could not find my passport. I always keep a copy of my passport at home and with me when I travel, but I started to think about the realities of what would need to happen in order for me to leave Easter Island, which has no embassies. I started to worry about how long I may be held up there until I could even receive the documents in order to travel home, when I caught myself and began chanting to Ma Durga again. My mind calmed, and suddenly I had a vision that I had left my passport in the top pocket of my backpack from three days earlier when we arrived on the island. I couldn't imagine how I would have left it unsafely in a pocket and not in a safer location where I usually put it. But, that is indeed where I found and sound.

When I arrived home I thought it was time to up my game. I was definitely feeling the energy of Durga with me, strongly. Now I wanted to create some space to learn her Gayatri Mantra, as I had done for Ganesha. I feel that the Gayatri mantras hold a different power and energy for the deities, one that is more directed towards enlightenment and higher vibrations. Do not get me wrong, I love Durga's strength and fierceness, but that is not an energy that I want to embody on a daily basis, lest my life feel like a constant battle!

Durga's Gayatri is:

Om Mahaa-Dhevyai Cha Vidmahe
Durgaayai Cha Dhimahee
Thanno Dhevee Prachodayath

It translates to:
"Let me meditate on the goddess who is the daughter of Kathyayana. Oh, maiden Goddess, give me higher intellect and let Goddess Durga illuminate my mind."

This is a challenging mantra, so I created space for the mantra "Om Hreem Dum Durgaayei Namaha", which is Durga's bija (seed) mantra. I chanted this 108 times daily as I moved about, dancing, banging my feet not he floor in separate rhythmic patterns, and creating spontaneous movements. I just felt like I needed to shake things up! And I wanted to have some fun with my chanting!

The chanting and dancing was easy, and each day I would try to embrace the Gayatri. But that one took me a while to get. Part of my learning these ancient mantras is that I try to create a melody of my own. I try not to listen to any other versions of the mantra so that when I finally get it - I really get it deep down into my soul. The mantras infuses with me and becomes a part of me forever. When this happened one day, unexpectedly with Durga, I felt this softening around the energies of the Goddess that I had not felt before. I felt a higher level of her and my daily chants became more profound experiences in many ways.

May 19th, Friday, is my final day of chanting to Ma Durga. In many ways she was very easy to chant to for me. Even though she and I are new friends, I feel like a part of me has always embodied her. I am incredibly independent. None of my family or close friends even ever thought I would get married. My husband gives me plenty of space to be myself and never tries to stifle me or my creative or travel urges. He understands my need to feel free and to be my own person, and that is why we work so well together...although, there were times in our marriage when this was not always the case, and in those times, unbeknownst to me, I was embodying Durga.

On May 20th (just a few days before my 49th birthday), I shift my focus to one of Durga's aspects Saraswati: goddess of music, arts, creativity and Divine word. How especially serendipitous as I amp up my writing projects for the summer!

They say that everything happens for a reason. I know that I needed Durga with me for my travel to Easter Island. And now, as I shift to the months ahead and my focus there, it appears that the aspect of the Divine Mother that I am most in need of, I will also be embodying.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Theme: CARE!

"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - 
the ones at home."
- Mother Teresa

April's theme was "DO," and for May the theme is "CARE." We see a correlation here in what the Universe is asking of us. It is time to shift our awareness to action-based activities. The world, our country, and for many of us, our own immediate families - and least of all, ourselves - needs us. As energy beings and beings of light it is time to move away from our preclusion to worry or wallow and create energy around the positive aspects of prosperity, abundance, and happiness.

What does it mean to CARE? 

One dictionary definition of CARE says that it is a "disquieted state of apprehension..a cause for such anxiety." Well, obviously that is not helpful or yogic by any means. A second dictionary declares to CARE as: "a provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something...serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly to avoid damage or risk." So, OK, now we are getting somewhere. 

As human beings, we all CARE about something. There is something that tugs at our heartstrings or that fills us with a sense of integrity to the point where we realize we must go above and beyond to provide for it. Anyone with a child can understand the reasons why we CARE for them. We pet parents do too. And those are probably the easiest beings to care for because they are the closest to us. But what if we CARED a whole lot more? What if we CARED about all life, equally? Yes, this includes our own life, the smaller mammals and insects, and even the people on the planet that we may not agree with, etc. 

At the end of the day, isn't to CARE really about LOVE? And we are talking unconditional Love. Because aren't the conditions the things that create any anxiety anyway? Without conditions when we CARE unconditionally, there is no fear or worry or negativity. The absences of those conditions are what creates harmonious relationships. 

There is a sort of well-known Mantra:
This translates to: "May all beings, everywhere, be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life, in some way, contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.

We believe that this mantra sums up the energy of what it means to CARE. And we offer it to you to consider throughout the month of May - especially when challenged by conditions of fear. 

In Love & Light,
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

* * * * * * * * * * *

When the theme of "CARE" came to me this month I was at first confused. What does this mean? Of course everyone cares and is caring, right? I know that our beautiful community certainly is a very caring bunch of folks. I appreciate that about you all. But this actually gave me a little time to plug into it a little further - for myself and our community. 

Considering what I CARE about most always includes my family, my friends, the studio, and helping people. Those are always the top things. I've realized that myself is not up there in those top things, as I tend to do for others before I do for myself. I always considered this a good thing, until I realized how depleted I'd become, and thus began a recent renewed interest in self-care. But I also realized that in this vein, I was not listening to and caring for my own needs as a creative being. I actually do so much outer work for the interest of others that I lacked in the inner work on caring for myself. And this came to a sort of boiling point where I started to wonder if I was having a mid-life crisis of consciousness (and maybe I was). 

I am still very much digesting my recent trip to Easter Island. This most remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has many things to teach. With an ecosystem that came very close to extinction, a remoteness that forces one to understand his/her place in the world, and many forgotten lore, there is an immediate understanding of how the thoughts and actions of one's own being contribute to the whole - in a very big way. The interconnectedness of all life energy is palpable even in the fallen Moai statues that line the coastline, and at first glance may appear seemingly lifeless. I continued to get the sense that they were lying there for centuries just waiting for someone to CARE. Then I learned that the Rapa Nui (people of Easter Island) finally took back control of the national park from Chile just four months ago, and have much plans to restore many of the sites. Someone did CARE - they DO CARE - and they finally took the stand to gain back control. Hurray!

Maybe in your life there is something that you CARE about, but have been either taking a back seat to someone else's actions, or have just not put any energy to it for some reason. Here's your chance. Use the month of May to infuse energy back into what you really CARE about...and don't forge, as Mother Teresa says, to look closest to home...and that includes yourself.

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Goddess Lakshmi: Good Fortune, Abundance & Beauty

She sits on a lotus flower and holds two others in her hands. The lotus is associated as a symbol of fertility and life. Her other two hands spill gold coins. The elephants she is flanked with also spill coins or water - fertilizing rains. She is often known as the goddess of wealth and good fortune. She is called upon by business owners to rain down wealth and prosperity to them and actually worship their accounting books during one of her festivals.

With all of her symbols it is easy to get wrapped up in the external and material matters that she may represent, but the goddess is much more. She is an aspect of the great mother. And she has the capacity to take over three of the male gods duties: Brahma (creating), Vishnu (Sustaining) and Shiva (destroying) by performing all three functions and thus completely dominating the divine landscape. She is associated with righteous behavior and is said to dwell in those who have clean bodies and are well-dressed. In the Mahabharata she says, "I dwell in truth, gift, vow, austerity, strength, and virtue."

I began on the New Moon in February 26th creating my alter to Lakshmi and chanting to her. Since she is often associated with elephants and sometimes found alongside Ganesha, I began with a mantra  that worked with both of their energies:

"Om Lakshmi Ganapatayai Namaha."
This mantra invokes Lakshmi's energy of prosperity and abundance with Ganesha's removing of obstacles to the flowering of abundance.

In contrast from some days of chanting to Ganesha that felt difficult and daunting, I felt a new and lighter energy in chanting to Lakshmi. She felt light and fun in contrast to Ganesha's focus on removing unwanted energies. She is a bright and beautiful goddess spilling wealth and prosperity! Who wouldn't love that?!

The mantra came easy and I quickly dove through 108 reps each night. Then spent some time contemplating my businesses and my husband's as well, since we were still in the slow and challenging winter months of my husband's landscaping business and literally no income was coming in, I asked him to also chant to Lakshmi and help light her candle and incense from time to time.

On February 16th I headed to Bali on a yoga retreat. I knew that traveling with a full alter would be difficult. So I brought a picture of Lakshmi and my rose quartz mala beads that I used to chant to her each day. My focus began to change to the business of the retreat and making sure that everyone was attended to and that the retreat was managed seamlessly for everyone. I also asked Lakshmi to provide support for both my partner's business and mine while we were away in Bali. Each day in Bali (usually upon waking), I would chant to her and take a few moments of prayer before heading out for our morning coconut water and yoga. I changed the mantra to something even simpler and more direct: "Om Shreem Maha Lakshmyai Namaha."

The retreat went really well and Lakshmi was certainly there to support us before, during and after our journey to Bali. The day before we left Bali, I dedicated a yoga class to Lakshmi and created an alter to her for everyone to share. We talked about abundance and beauty and all that Lakshmi offers. It was a beautiful way to end the retreat by sharing her with the others after having dedicated time to her personally each day.

When I returned home, I was quite tired from travel. I think I missed chanting one day to her. But my husband told me that while I was gone he did light the candle most evenings that I had on the Lakshmi alter at home. His businesses were starting to get busy, which I like to think is a result of his energy to Lakshmi.

My plan was to continue chanting to Lakshmi until April 9th, which was last night. And I did just that. I finished up my last chant and day of honoring Lakshmi by chanting several different mantras 108 times:

"Om Shreem Shreeyai Namaha."

"Om Shreem Shreem Shreem Mahaa Lakshmyai Namaha."

"Om Hreem Shreem Lakshmibhyo Namaha."

Shreem and Hreem are both seed-sounds. Hreem is the seed-sound adding Divine attraction and Shreem is the seed-sound to increase creative abundant energy within us. I burned quite a bit of Lakshmi incense yesterday, and began to take down her alter to prepare for Durga today.

One thing that began to change in my intentions somewhere during Bali, was to bring in the aspect of beauty to my prayers and devotional work. I'm not sure that I have given this aspect much focus in recent years, and it has become apparent to me that to honor the Goddess in all her forms, I need to honor her life-force and beauty. And also to honor this aspect within myself. I think that because our society has warped the concept of beauty so much that I actually pulled away from wanting to connect to it for some time. But I realize the significance of this and how it is something to cultivate, and I look to Lakshmi in her beautiful pink robes and surrounded by pretty lotus flowers for this guidance.

My 40 days of chanting to Lakshmi was, "easy-breezy." She was a light and fun goddess, and a welcomed change to the powers of Ganesha. Now, as I move into the power of Ma Durga for the next 40 days, I know that the energy will once again shift, and possibly take me into deeper levels of myself. What will show up? That is the amazing opportunities of never knows at the onset, but always uncovers something deep and lasting in the end.

Om Shanti.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What does the Snail say?

I just returned from a fabulous yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia that I co-hosted with my friend and business partner, Victoria Purcell-Goodwin. We were lucky to have 7 beautiful people traveling with us through Bali on a "Bali Blessed!" mindful travel tour. Although this was a working trip, I was much looking forward to getting away. My last trip away was our yoga retreat to Peru in September - also a working trip. And although I am used to taking a personal trip in January, I had decided to not travel again since we had a few business trips coming up and I was already planning to be away from the studio for too many weeks and I had a lot of training and other obligations at work. Of course, December 1st I had a car accident that landed me with a concussion that I continued to work through up until leaving for Bali, so that would have put a damper on any travel plans that I had made anyway. I was sincerely looking forward to Bali, even though I was slightly concerned about how the traveling would affect my head. But I have to say, other than acclimating the first week to the daily schedule - of which I was NOT ready for - and thus having some minor headaches each evening, I was feeling pretty good.

But the point I want to make regarding this entire situation is that I have had continued messages to "SLOW DOWN" since the onset of my accident. And in Bali I received a few more...

About the second day, I was headed from a morning smoothie up to my room and then to the yoga room for our daily practice. Everyone else had to traversed the same steps as I through the lush landscape and multiple steps in our health resort. And although everyone proceed the same way as me - either just before or just after I did - I was the only one to see a magnificent snail right in the middle of some steps.

Here is the big guy...
Of course I knew that the snail was a messenger just for me. And I knew what the continued message was: "SLOW DOWN." However, since we were on a working yoga retreat, slowing down more than what was already scheduled was not particularly an option...

We moved through our retreat beautifully. Many days were busier than anticipated, but after the first week we anchored into our second home along the beach and the schedule changed a bit to reflect some more open time. I was happy to not have any headaches that entire second week. And then the evening before we were to return home, I was headed back to my room and guess who I found on the step going into my room? Yes, another large snail. Again, nobody else was around and I decided to move him off the step so that Victoria didn't accidentally step on him on her way back to the room later on.

So, I was the only one to see both of these big, beautiful snails on our trip. Because the messenger was only for me. And I will repeat the message: "SLOW DOWN." And I only repeat it because I need to hear it again.

I often do feel like I awake daily and am off to the races. There is always so much to do and whenever I have free time, I tend to fill it with any of the multiple activities that I could do - be it work or pleasure. I firmly believe that the Universe has been sending me messengers in all kinds of ways to remind me to slow down and to choose my activities wisely with mindfulness and purposeful intentions. And although I would love to be able to do it all, the reality is that I shouldn't be. The reality is that I should be resting more and choosing how to use my time more wisely. 

And so that is what I am choosing to now do.

I realized even before Bali that something had to give. I wrote down about 13 different things on individual pieces of paper and arranged them in a circle. They were like spokes on a wheel. As I looked at each one I asked myself which ones were non-negotiable, which ones were possibilities, which ones I really wanted to tackle, and which ones could go. But I just couldn't determine the true and right answer. So, I decided to head to Bali and hope of some answers...

...enter the snail...

Here is little more about Snail Animal Totem Medicine from the website

"Snail is letting you know that you need to slow down! What’s the big hurry? You have been spending so much time focusing on your goals that you have been missing something that is right in front of you right now.  Let go for a moment so that you will be able to see it.
Alternatively, this mollusk is letting you know that any pace is a good pace and sometimes what seems like forever is just a small moment of time. Release your beliefs of not getting things done on time. Trust your process and simply stay present and chug along. No sense in causing yourself any more stress.
Snail is also letting you know that your time needs to be used wisely. However, you also have to realize that you have time for everything. Divide your priorities and set up block of time in each day so that there is steady progress in all of your projects.  The whole process is a simple exercise in time management. Stay in the present and all things will be accomplished."

Patience has never been my strong spot. I need learn to embrace it. I have created too much stress in my life doing what I love. That's never good. Last year I downsized the studio and moved it to create less stress, and that was a great move. But I still need to make changes in my life. This means saying "No" more than I would like to and not getting involved in all of the business opportunities that I could or want to do or reprioritize them to spread them out a little more. 
I also need to refocus on some things that I have not focused on and that are really important to me and make sure that I am giving a little time and energy to them on a regular basis instead of completely foregoing them in order to do more of my day-to-day activities. I mean, is it really important to do laundry or wash dishes? I think not! In fact, my resting more and not doing everything has empowered my husband to take on more things at home, so that's a win-win!
Life is a continued work in progress, isn't it? The journey never really ends. I am not unlike anyone else - we are all just doing our best and trying to figure it all out. Managing my time and creating more pockets of rest and rejuvenation are key to me moving forward this year. Selecting which activities are the right ones to engage in and how to spend my time is of particular importance to me because the older I get the more I realize how previous that time really is.
It never ceases to amaze me how messages come to us in our life. First the deer offered me a reminder of being gentle and now the snail comes to remind me to slow down. The message is loud and clear and in the same vein. And I am listening.