Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Transforming Through the Dark Night

When one is on a spiritual path or journey it is not an easy walk. Immersing into the psychology and energies of spiritual traditions is meant to bring the seeker to a higher plane of existence. But first, he or she must go through what is often referred to as the "dark night of the soul" in order to reach it.

Three years ago this September I embarked on such a trip - albeit unknowingly, at first. My grandmother, to whom I was always very close with, had suddenly died, and I was heading to Peru and Bolivia on a Shamanic trip. I knew for some reason that I needed to cleanse and purge before I left. I'd spent the last twenty years amassing "things" and collecting energy and I felt heavy and a deep need inside of me to purge. I began with a box of journals, recordings of my life up to that point and picked up more old files, manuscripts and other documents. I brought them outside to a bonfire and as my husband tended to the sacred fire I burned them all - one at a time. This sacrificial burning was the beginning of a deep cleansing and recasting of energies.

I went on my trip as happy as always to board a plane and head off on another adventure. It was thrilling and I welcomed the magic and mystical journey ahead of me. A mere few days into the trip I had an experience that I will never forget and something that changed me forever. I wrote about this experience in detail in another blog so I will save the details for that. Let me just say that an energy transference occurred for me that day that literally threw me to the ground, unable to move or do anything. This very physical experience lasted long enough to be only mildly problematic for our group and eventually I was able to go about my day visiting sacred sites. But this was only the beginning for me. I had begun a process that I could not undo, and for the next three years I dove deeper into my own darkness than I ever had before.

John of the Cross wrote of this experience as la note oscura or dark night and thought of it as a spiritual purging and an illumination. I know how it started but I cannot say how it all continued to manifest until I was deep into a very difficult period where I questioned everything - including what I was doing and why. I went through hysterical moments of deep sorrow and absolute lack of faith. I cried almost daily and I wondered how I was ever going to move forward in life the way in which I was. I knew deep within me that something had to change, but I didn't understand what it was. The only thing I knew that I had to do was continue to purge.

I began going through my possessions - donating them to organizations and individuals. My friends were scared and didn't know what to do. I was not talking in my usual positive framework. In fact, the things that I usually enjoyed doing I could hardly handle any more and made myself scarce with family and friends. I went to work, but there was no joy in my work. I suffered endlessly wondering if I needed to close the yoga studio and go back to working for someone else or to recreate myself again, but as what?

Angels began speaking to me and I held them close as they felt like the only thing that was keeping me going. I wrote a fictional book about a transformational journey (The Accidental Yogini) and was able to connect to the deep well of negativity that the main character felt in the beginning of the book all too perfectly. But as she changed and transformed in the book, I almost despised my own character's ability to find purpose in her life, feeling that I had somehow missed mine.

To many this may seem like a bunch of "poor-Tracey, itty-poo-poo" crap. I understand. It kind of was. Every time I tried to explain my pit of despair it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Well, either that or nobody knew what to say to me since I was usually the voice of reason.

So I dug deeper and went through a period of unrest in my soul. Who was I? What do I believe in? Why was I doing what I was doing? Was I a good person or a bad one? Did I really resonate with what I taught? Was I missing the point of a spiritual life? Questions kept coming and I then threw myself into a daily gratitude and blessing journal to focus my energy on the wonderful things in my life. Some days I had to force myself to come up with something. Other days I could find a thing. Over time it became easier and felt less fraudulent too.

Somewhere along this journey of endless questioning I realized something very important: I had already figured all of these things out a really long time ago. I knew who I was and what I was doing. I just started listening to everyone else on the planet instead of myself! I teach people not to look outside of him or herself for validation, and yet, there I was doing just that. I was trying to be like other yoga studios, other mentors, other wives, other people - and I was totally miserable. I had spent so much time questioning and looking outside that I forgot to drop back inside to me.

As I write this blog today I feel that I have finally come full circle - three turns of the wheel of the year later. Well, I believe that all spiritual paths come in threes, so why not!? I feel more myself than I have in a very long time, actually. I feel refocused and realigned with a sense of humbleness and purpose in my being that I did not have before. I had to go through some very tough times in order to get here though. I had to leave some of me behind in the process, burning away the impurities of my ego. I am now ready to serve and help others again through the work that I do. And I feel that this time I will be able to tackle that with more wisdom, patience and understanding than before.

Some may not see me as very much different than before. I'm not particularly concerned with how people see me anymore. I try to be the best that I can in any moment and I strive to be a better person all the time. I'm constantly challenged and sometimes I realize I could have handled things better, but at least I am consciously trying. But the reason I write this blog is for anyone who is feeling that same despondency in their being. I understand and I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not the first person to go through the dark night, and you will not be the last. But you will be different one you pass through it. That is for sure.

In Love & Light.
Tracey

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Tips for Being Mindful - Neighbors of East Windsor Magazine Article

Neighbors of East Windsor Article: Tips For Being Mindful

By: Tracey L. Ulshafer, Owner, One Yoga & Wellness Center, Hightstown, NJ


Mindfulness is a new movement with an old history. In today’s fast-paced, reactive world, we can certainly learn a lot of from ancient cultures about the benefits of being more thoughtful and aware. Often times our knee-jerk reactions stem from our emotions, which most of the time creates dramatic and unwanted results. Taking a moment to pause, and come from a centered and calm place always gifts more positive results. 

The ancient yogis lived mindfully, and cultivated a lifestyle based around awareness. Today we see a surge of mindfulness in schools programs, as educators are seeing the benefits of mindful behavior for our children. How can we adults, with our engrained behaviors, benefit from mindfulness?  In addition to reducing our stress, living mindfully can help with focus, improve general health and well-being, boost our resilience and aid in recovery from illness and, in general, create a more peaceful life. 

You should be saying, “Sign me up!” Although life can be busy, we can easily create space for mindfulness in these easy steps:

1.    Breath – take five minutes a day to focus on your breathing. Follow the natural flow of the breath from the inhalation to the exhalation, and notice the pause in between. After time, increase the length or join a yoga class to learn other breathing techniques to increase breath capacity.
2.    Meditation – take just a minute to close your eyes, or even with them open, then focus on one thing. It could be a picture of a loved one, a statue of Mother Mary, the blue sky on a beautiful day, or word like “peace” or “love.” You can even just focus on your breath or a sensation in your body. Try it for just one minute a day, and then gradually increase to five minutes, ten, thirty or more.
3.    Listen – practice listening instead of talking or reacting. Listen to the birds sing. Listen to the ripples of running water. Listen to the hum of silence. Listen to your loved ones talk. Just listen. Smile. Hold that space for someone else.
4.    BE – the hard one is not filling up your time with endless doing. The old zen saying goes, “Don’t just do something, be.” Give it a try. Unplug.
5.    Travel & Be in Nature – judgments arise easily when we live in a bubble. Travel and seek out other cultures and how they commune with nature. On a bit of a budget? Travel to a park or the ocean or the mountains. New Jersey is ideally situated for all of those things. Get out in nature, commune, explore, and understand that there are many paths along the journey.
6.    Joy – when was the last time you had a full belly laugh? What makes you truly happy? Suffering is optional. Find the joy in life, and make time for it – even if you have to laugh at your own seriousness. Life is short = be happy.
7.    Practice Gratitude – life is a blessing. What are you grateful for? Start a gratitude journal or jar and every day write down something that you are grateful for in that moment. Become more aware of the blessings in your life and stay present in them.

Mindfulness isn’t easy at first. It is a practice, but one that becomes easier the more energy that we give to it. Seek out reputable teachers and mentors for additional help. Luckily we have some right in East Windsor!


For ongoing yoga and meditation classes, private breathing lessons or mentoring, contact Tracey Ulshafer at One Yoga & Wellness Center, 156 South Main St., Hightstown, NJ – across from Peddie school. (609) 918-0963, Info@oneyogacenter.netorwww.oneyogacenter.net. For mindful traveling, visit www.SacredJourneysRetreats.comand travel with One Yoga Center on their next Sacred Journey.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Why We ALL Need Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is widely misunderstood as "doing nothing" by many students. This couldn't be further from the truth. For, in this practice you are actually "doing" more than you realize!
Tracey performing Reiki during a Restorative Yoga posture

Fort hose of you that do not know what Restorative Yoga is, basically yoga postures are performed using props. Bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets and more are brought and tucked under the body in various places (knees, belly, etc.) in order to hold the student, comfortably, in the posture. The ideas it to breathe deeply and allow your body to completely relax, and thusly, restore.

The challenge of this type of practices are many:

1. The mind clearly has a lot of room to move about when we are still. We have to focus deeply in order to bring the mind to the breath and the moment. It is a constant struggle, but we keep at it, watching and allowing thoughts, then letting them go.

2. We are tense people, so laying "comfortably" in postures is not easy! This is where we find our deep held tensions in the tissues. By breathing and focusing, we continue to release. At first, this can be quite uncomfortable. Thus the many props we keep sticking here or there in order to allow the body to release. Certain postures are going to be quite challenging to find that area in which to release into for deeper letting go. It can take sometimes up to five minutes to find that comfort zone. And then once you start breathing and releasing, you may find that you need to remove some props too!

3.  There is no comparison, judgements or competition allowed because you simply cannot do what your neighbor is doing in these asanas. Every body is different so the props and how they are used will change for each person. It forces us to go within, and to deal with the many inner workings of our own being.

Much research has been and continues to be done on the benefits of restorative yoga. Amongst the many benefits that have been concluded are:
Improvement in mood, depression, anxiety and sleep.

According to Breast Cancer.org: Restorative yoga poses are especially beneficial during times of feeling depleted and fatigued – support offered by props relieves the musculoskeletal system and as the breath moves slowly and smoothly, the nervous system shifts to a quieter mode. Since props are mobile and adjustable, and poses themselves can be modified, restorative yoga is well-suited to accommodate those at risk for lymphedema. If you are recovering from surgery, restorative poses can provide gentle, passive stretching to help release muscles and reduce tissue adhesions.

The Spinal Research Foundation notes two benefits for back pain and chronic pain in general: Yoga helps to build postural stability by both strengthening and lengthening the muscles that support the spine. By developing strength and flexibility, you can put yourself in a better position to avoid back pain. The second benefit comes from the physical and mental relaxation practiced during restorative yoga. When you learn to calm your mind and relax your body, there is an almost immediate response from the nervous system and that promotes the body’s own healing and repair. Will it reverse all your chronic pain? Unfortunately it’s not magic, but your day to day discomfort may be significantly reduced.

And there are so many more studies and benefits of this particular practice.

Yogis who practice vinyasa or strong hatha based types of yoga, which are more yang or solar/masculine energies, can benefit from Restorative because it is the yin/feminine quality. Those who do not have a yoga practice or suffer from injury will find Restorative quite helpful in coming into the body and integrating it back to wholeness.

But everyone can benefit from this practice in today's world. We are all constantly plugged in. Whether it is addiction to your cell phones or being overworked or over scheduled, we are constantly "on" in some way in our lives. Few people take the time to unplug and go off into nature or relax and unwind on a daily basis, away from the constant stimuli of our world. Many people think of relaxation as sitting in front of the TV for a few hours at night. But, again, we are not giving our brain  that necessary reboot time.

No, everyone can benefit from a Restorative Yoga practice in these days where energy is accelerated and we seem to be cramming more and more into our days.

Give yourself the gift of RESTORING your body, mind and soul with a lovely, relaxing practice.

Join us for a one-hour Restorative with Reiki (energy work to enhance your overall vitality) on Tuesdays at 6pm and Thursdays at 4:30 pm.
Check our ongoing schedule at www.oneyogacenter.net to confirm times/days.


Yoga for Inner Peace - Neighbors of East Windsor Article

Neighbors of East Windsor Article: Yoga for Inner Peace

By Tracey L. Ulshafer, Owner, One Yoga Center, Hightstown, NJ


When I was a young girl we spent our days off outside playing with friends. We didn’t have cell phones, but we respected the rules of being home when the streetlights came on. We lived in a world where we trusted our neighbors to help watch out for our children and so instead of having one set of parents, I had a town of sets of parents looking out for me. By enlarge; we had a sense of belonging and trusting in the world around us. Unfortunately, the children of today cannot claim the same things. 

Today’s world is fast-paced, interactive and constant. Children spend more time indoors than outdoors, cut off from the world and from nature. Single parents struggle for support as they try to manage the day-to-day operations of running a household, and there certainly isn’t the same amount of trust. The people of today; both adults and children alike, struggle to find peace and calm on a daily basis. Stress related medical conditions have skyrocketed and coping skills have seemed to become a thing of the past. But there is much hope. There is a thousands year old practice that can elevate the mood, slow the fluctuations of the mind and alter consciousness. And it is available to everyone.

Yoga is sometimes thought of as an exercise for super flexible people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, yoga is a self-development practice and not an exercise. It is the science of Self-Realization and the sort of homecoming that we are all searching for. 

According to yoga text and many ascended masters, the problem with man is that we tend to look outside of ourselves for peace and contentment, which ultimately causes much suffering. By just coming into a comfortable seated position, focusing on the breath, being still and in the present moment, we can start to affect a positive change in our bio-energetic system that takes us in just a few moments from states of restlessness and anxiousness to peace and calm. Why? Because we move inward to the presence of Oneness and wholeness with the entire Universe and realize on a very core level that we are a part of something vast and purposeful. Yes, that’s right, the entire cosmos and all that exists within it can be found right here inside of our own being. We just need to know where and how to look.

We are all searching for inner peace. Whether you are aware of it or not, the entirety of your life is about reconnecting to this Divine presence within you. All of the worlds’ religions talk about it and all philosophies and spiritual practices work towards it too. We all want inner peace. And we can get there if we work on it and make it a daily practice. 

Try this simple exercise: Come into a seated or lying down position and make sure that your back is straight and the spine aligned. Take a deep inhale through your nose and into your belly (as opposed to your chest) and fill the belly up like a big balloon. Try to hold it for a pause, and then slowly exhale through the nose pulling the belly back towards the spine. Pretend that you are holding the end of the balloon and letting the air out slowly and mindfully. At the end of the exhalation, begin your next inhale, again filling the balloon. Repeat this breathing practice for 15-20 deep breaths, then relax your body and notice the difference. 

You will notice right away a positive change – regardless of how easy or difficult it was for you to do the breathing. While there are many other particulars to this breathing and other yogic practices, by just committing to doing this every day and maybe gradually increasing the time or amount of breaths, you will start to cultivate a greater sense of inner peace. And then when you are ready to learn more, you should seek out a qualified yoga teacher in which to study and practice with. 

Many yoga classes are concluded with the phrase “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”Shanti means ‘Peace.’ You can say or sing that mantra daily – or substitute the word peace itself – to cultivate this energy alongside your breathing meditation practice. And with daily practice, soon you will notice that you are bringing this practice into other components of your life and that your life is one filled with a greater sense of peace. 

August 2018 Theme: DIVINE TIMING


August's 2018's Theme: DIVINE TIMING

Divine Timing refers to the notion that everything happens when it is supposed to, as opposed to when we want it to. Yikes! This poses a few problems for those of us who have been manifesting the heck out of ourselves, yet still awaiting this to show up, doesn't it?

Yes, you can be on the right track, living a good life and plugging away and still be waiting for the tide to turn. Because ultimately, everything happens in its own timing. Roses open when they are ready to - you cannot force them open. You cannot force the river to flow, as Prana Yoga teacher Shiva Rea says, you have to learn to ride the wave. But what if you are struggling? What if you really need things to change? What if you don't know how much more you can take? The Universe asks you to have faith. Keep working and keep putting your best foot forward because when the energy does shift, you will be more than ready...perhaps even a little more humble and appreciative too.

August is usually a dry, hot month for us. In the northeast we are being asked to slow down, relax our pushing, and just be. Unfortunately for us, we also have about 5 planets in retrograde motion now...meaning that they appear to be moving in the opposite direction in the night sky. When this phenomena happens, the energy that a particular planet in retrograde motion represents, is unavailable to us. Currently Marsis in retrograde motion until August 27th when it goes direct. Saturn goes direct September 6Neptune goes direct 25 of NovemberPluto October 1, and our good old friend Mercury, well, she's currently retrograde until August 19th. And then we will have our sixth planet retrograde soon as Uranus transits retrograde August 7 an doesn't go direct until January 7th. Maybe this doesn't mean much to you. But like it or not: AS ABOVE - SO BELOW. 

So what energies are not present for us at this time? Well we know that Mercury represents all communications. So computers, phones, travel, electronics, documents, etc...guess what? Don't sign any important papers! Don't send that knee-jerk response text either. Mars rules energy, passion, action and initiation. Feeling depleted and unable to launch new projects? Jupiter rules freedom, wisdom, travel, abundance and good luck. Dear lord! Saturn is the planet of karma and dispenser of justice. This guy is asking us to not take any short-cuts right now, but to go slowly and do things right the first time. Neptune values higher states of insight and Uranus is about out of the box thinking. And good old Pluto brings transformation. 

OK, that's a lot of information. So what can we do right now? Do some deep soul searching during this time and assess what you need to do to prepare for when these planets go direct. Because when they do, things are going to accelerate quite fast and we need to be ready for everything we have been working on to come to fruition - in its own Divine Timing.

This month, we invite you to incorporate these methods into your life:
 
ChantSo Ham Translation: "I AM THAT."

Postures: Restorative Yoga postures where props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks support you into the poses, promoting deep relaxation (Join Tracey for two Restorative with Reiki classes on our regular schedule: Tuesdays at 6pm and Thursdays at 4:30 pm).

Meditation/Breathing: Stillness with relaxed, effortless breathing or natural breath. Simply sit, lay down or stand in a quiet space (phones turned off) and watch your breath. You can also do a guided scan of the body, naming each part and then relaxing that place.

Altar: Find a yellow cloth for your alter. Place a wheat inspired floral arrangement on the alter with a white candle. Quartz crystals that represent Universal Life Energy should be present. If you own any special type of Quartz or Citrine, those are good too. Something to represent the circle of life, such as a spiral, Tree of Life, or another symbol or deity can also be present as you worship this inward period and the constant energetic changes around us. 

In Love, Service & Wisdom, Tracey and the One Yoga Center Teachers.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Special Message from Tracey for August

OK, you guys know me pretty good by now. I come from a good stock of hard workers and business owners. I wake up being guided to what I need to work on, and I plug away at it all day long. I feel like I am running three businesses right now: One Yoga Center and all that comes with that, The Accidental Yogini and promoting the book, and Sacred Journeys, the retreats I am running. And things are moving, but slowly. I am averaging 1.5 people per book signing event. The fall yoga teacher trainings feel a little stalled at the moment and I am waiting for people to sign on so that I know they will happen. And the yoga retreats? Well, I have lots of things spinning with those and interest is surely coming in, but I still have so much work to do to get it really off the ground.

When you work so hard for things and they trickle in, it can be a little nerve wracking. I've had to really focus on my intentions and allow myself to go with the flow of energy sometimes. Instead of focusing on what is not working out, I focus on what is and what I need to do to work with it. Some days this is effortless, while other days I have a little breakdown. 

Divine Timing is an important concept to grasp because all of our longing and "grasping" only creates suffering. We know this from our spiritual teachers. Trust, let go, have faith, just be, breathe - these are all great powerful and useful tools that we need to understand and accept. It does not mean that I stop working. It doesn't not mean that I give up. It does not mean that I don't wake up every day guided by what I need to do - regardless if I accomplish it or not. I do it. And along the way, I stop and breathe and I let go and I trust that if my energy is in the right light and for the greater good, then I will be supported. 

So make those vision boards and "to do" lists and do the work. But respect that the Universe has its own plan for us...and that God does have a sense of humor.

The other day I received a text from a student and friend of mine who is having a challenging time. She asked me what she could do. I told her to dance. Dance it off. Dance in all that energy and release the stuff you are holding on to. Shakti is the energy of creation and she is all around you. Keep on Keepin' On and eventually you all will be well.

Tracey L. Ulshafer, Founder, One Yoga & Wellness Center LLC, Experienced-Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hours (E-RYT500), RYS, CMT, Energy Worker, 11:11True One.

If you would like to meet for private yoga, spiritual counseling or mentoring, contact Tracey at (609) 918-0963 or Info@oneyogacenter.net