The Anatomy Of a Wind Chime

Karen McDonald, Yoga practitioner and Spiritual Director shares her thoughts on things that blow in the wind: 

I rescued a wind chime last week. The hushed instrument caught my eye from my rocking chair position on a mountain porch. The “wind-catcher,” the shape hanging at the end of the center string, had become tangled around the top of the chimes so that it was impossible for it to sing and dance in the breeze. Much like a naughty child in a time-out chair, it was in the corner... brooding. As I untangled the wind-catcher, I discovered that someone had replaced what was once a wooden wind-catcher with a cardboard shape. The cardboard did not have enough weight to engage a song, failing to briskly move the clapper (that circular disc that strikes the chimes), causing it to get stuck outside the circle of chimes — emitting only weak, repetitive notes. I had never considered how important it is for the wind-catcher to have a weightiness about it, being substantial enough to pull the clapper in and out, away from the outside edges of the chimes, preventing it from getting stuck in a restrictive pose, never limiting its song. 

This bound wind chime caused me to reflect on my well-worn habit of letting my mind (clapper) muscle overpower my spiritual heart (wind-catcher) muscle. And in those moments of imbalance my song grows faint or boring - hitting only a narrow range of notes. Martin Laird in Into the Silent Land says, “In fact, because our attention is so completely riveted to what’s playing on the big screen of our thinking mind, we can live completely unaware of the deeper ground of the heart that already communes with God.” Being a teacher of the contemplative Christian tradition, I am constantly inviting others to practice the ancient spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer, exploring that deeper ground, the spiritual heart, where gifts and the Giver wait for us.

Do you find yourself too often living from that restrictive placec in the mind where raging thoughts overtake you, trapping you in a small view dominated by feelings and emotions of the moment? If so, I invite you to continue what you may have already begun in your yoga practice; quieting yourself for twenty minutes at a time, using your breath or a holy word or phrase to calm your mind, bringing you home to that space of ease - and oft—forgotten unconditional love. It is from that place that we are taken by surprise; breaking into song and dance as a wilder, truer, Holy wind catches us.


  Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

How do you find a yoga practice that is right for you?

During practice, I can hear my breath mix into the flow of everyone else's in the room. I can push myself to achieve my best pose of the day, or I can find myself honoring my body in a resting pose, and no one pushes me to come out of it. I can feel the engagement of the instructor through hands on adjustments, and when I am in my final pose, savasana, I am completely relaxed. My mind, my body and my breathe are at ease. My soul is at ease. I am home!

Read More

Who is Katie Silcox and WHY do you want to know her?

We are fortunate enough at Bristol Yoga to host teachers from all over the country to teach specialty classes and workshops.

One teacher who will be joining us in the studio this May is a woman named Katie Silcox.

Katie is a tall, blonde woman built like an Amazon Goddess and glows like one too. She is fluent in the Tantra Yoga Tradition as well as the science of Ayurveda and is on a mission to make these ancient practices accessible to the modern man and woman. Her New York Time's Bestseller, Healthy, Happy, Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women aims to do just that.

My first exposure to Katie came through her book Healthy, Happy, Sexy. At the time, we were hosting our Yogi Book Club through Bristol Yoga and we had selected her book as the feature for the month knowing she would later be visiting the studio. Initially, I was curious what kind of knowledge would be found in a book titled Healthy, Happy, Sexy, but just a few pages into the book, I remember thinking Katie had chosen the perfect title. Judging the book by it's cover, it was no more intimidating than a Cosmopolitan Magazine advertising "6 Ways to a Healthier YOU" or "10 Tips to Boost Your Bedroom Confidence". These tag lines obviously work for a reason (I mean, who wouldn't mind being healthier, happier, and sexier?) and with a title like this, Katie is appealing to women inside and outside of the yoga community. In the first few pages, with the wisdom of your great, great grandmother and the voice of your closest girlfriend you recognize and trust Katie as she begins to guide you through the necessity of a self-loving, self-care practice in order to find balance in life; something every modern individual needs, man or woman, yogi or non-yogi. Moving deeper into the book you find a wealth of knowledge and information about the complex, ancient self-loving traditions of Tantra and Ayurveda that dig deeper than Cosmopolitan's "Foods to Eat for a Flat Belly" (implying that there is something wrong with the belly you have now) and find instead guidance from Ayurvedic practices for "foods to eat that make your belly happy, and in turn your mind happy, because your belly is amazing and deserves your love just like the rest of you does."

During the time I was reading Healthy, Happy, Sexy I was living a particularly hectic life with a packed schedule that was pulling me in every direction but together. You've probably heard the saying "running around like a chicken with their head cut off." Well, that was me. This was right around the time I had developed a stress fracture in my wrist from overuse. My lack of self-care in my daily routine left me with no energy and a serious sweet craving to make up for the sweetness that was missing from my life. I finished Healthy, Happy, Sexy recognizing areas of my life in which I was self-medicating out of self-loathing and creating imbalance in my life with a new resolve to get grounded in a daily practice of self-loving. 

Katie later came to the studio for a three day weekend sharing more wisdom and knowledge from Tantra and Ayurveda for finding balance, even highlighting some of the notes from Healthy, Happy, Sexy. She is even funnier in person, living true to the humor and wit that shines in her book and her strong self-care practice speaks for itself through her presence. Each day of the weekend, Katie shared a different asana practice for balancing subtle energies of the mind-body and body-mind.

I remember the Friday evening class specifically. It was a class designed for bringing clarity, for cultivating stillness in the mind. The asana practice was all-levels, accessible by every practitioner. The breath work used in the practice was equal-ratio breathing, matching the length of your inhale to the length of your exhale. Closing the practice, the entire room was still. I remember feeling clear and grounded in a way that I had never really before. Leaving the studio, Katie requested that we observe silence to preserve the stillness and peace generated. Walking out to my car, I remember seeing and feeling the brightness of the moon like never before. My senses seemed to be incredibly sensitive, but I think it was more the stillness in my mind, the absence of the running dialogue going on in the background of my life, that was allowing me to indulge more in the natural world around me.

Katie's practices have since inspired in me the value of self-love, self-compassion and living a life in balance. When we take the time to take practice self-care and balance ourselves with the ebbs and flows of life, we are more available to experience the every day magic in our lives.

If you know you could use a little more balance in your life, Katie is going to be with us again the coming weekend May 6th - May 8th sharing more of her magic, wisdom and guidance.

 

Presented by Marcy Hullander

 

Feature Teacher: Heather Dotterweich

Fairly recently, I asked the question to one of my classes, "why do we come together to practice in the community?"

 

Many voices came forward, expressing reasons why they come to share in their practice; some of those reasons being to build connection, others being that they just wouldn't practice on their own. 

 

One individual shared "I learn better in the community."

 

This was a response I felt really captured the value of practicing in community. By practicing in a community, we become more than just our own experience. Within a community, lessons can be shared, explored, and even developed further so that new discoveries are made furthering the development of the community.

 

In order to see this kind of development within a community, however, the mindset of the forever-student must be present. We call it the "beginner's mind". The individual that, no matter how long they have been practicing, is able to maintain their "beginner's mind" and always come to their practice with intention to discover is the individual that will continue to stimulate and elevate the growth of the community. 

 

At Bristol Yoga, we are fortunate to share space with one particular individual who approaches more than just her yoga practice with the "beginner's mind", reminding us the value of approaching each day with the wonder of curiosity and intention to discover. 

 

This luminary individual is Heather Dotterweich!

 

1. When and how did you find yoga?

I first encountered a formal yoga asana class about 11years ago in the old Bristol Ballet studio, above the Blackbird Bakery. The teacher had spent 2 years in an ashram and was very fluent in her use of Sanskrit, but what felt more foreign were the positions, (basic asana) that my body was being asked to move into! However, an excellent teacher, and a growing awareness that I was connecting with something deep inside, kept me coming back to class.

 

2. Why did you choose to pursue teaching yoga?

Teaching comes fairly naturally to me, and I'd taught High School 'World Religion' in Scotland. However, I never set out to be a yoga teacher. It wasn't until year seven of practicing that the thought started to take root. So I spent the following year visiting lots of studios, doing various weekend courses, and talking to teachers to try and discern if this was right for me. Eventually, through a recommendation I found Lydie Ometto's Yoga Teacher Training school at Inner Sea Yoga in Johnson City. I graduated and began teaching 3 years ago, and that's when the learning really began, and still continues!

 

3. When and how did you come across mindfulness practices and what drew you to explore and teach mindfulness?

Several years ago I noticed more and more the numinous moments in life, where everything seemed to move beyond space, time, words and even thoughts, and I was left with a sense of just being. Often it would be times when I deliberately slowed everything down, and just paid attention: hanging laundry outside, watching a bird, a sunset, and the result was delicious! This experience is common to everyone, when we allow it! I then noticed that the term “Mindfulness”, (bringing awareness to the present moment) kept coming up, and realized that this is what I'd been accessing! I knew a little about meditation and assumed it was beyond me! Lydie talked about it's important connection to yoga, during my teacher training and we practiced a little. But it wasn't until I investigated further: seeing Mindfulness and meditation as a common thread running through the major religions, read some neuroscience research showing it's benefits, listened to several 'how to' courses, attended workshops and read some books, that I decided it couldn't be ignored! Most importantly, I tried it out, and I'm really pleased I did, now it's an integral part of my life and yoga teaching.

 

4. What have you learned from your mindfulness practices and your yoga?

I've learned that it does not make life's struggles disappear! But instead, makes life more doable!! I know my body better, my mind better, I have a deep compassion for myself, and all my foibles. There is a natural honoring that unfolds, and a sense of interconnection with all sentient beings! It's very liberating. It's been a paradigm shift!

 

5. What are you doing when you aren't teaching?

Cooking Indian food, reading Indian novels, watching British Murder Mysteries and documentaries. Reading about and doing yoga/meditation things. Hanging laundry outside, sitting under the cedar tree, dancing around in the house and singing, drinking coffee. Generally helping kids and husband around home, being very attentive to the cat! Going off on mini adventures.

 

6. What are 3 things you hope to learn or explore in the future?

I don't have any real clarity about the future. I do want to continue with my practice, which I hope will involve gaining more insight, but just really being open to the moment!

I'm presently enjoying teaching the students at Morrison School, and am excited to be sharing at Bristol Yoga again. I want to continue being a loving witness and support to my husband and children's unfolding life journeys, and to love and have curiosity about anyone and everyone everywhere!

 

We are so pleased too announce that Heather will be returning to share her practice with the Bristol Yoga Community starting in May on Tuesday Nights at 5:45 PM for Mindful Flow. If you need inspiration to connect with the present moment sooner than that, she will be sharing her Mindfulness and Meditation Workshop this Saturday, April the 16th at 2:00 PM!

 

 

Feature Teacher Presented by Marcy Hullander

Spring Recharge and Renew Retreat

Do you ever find yourself feeling uninspired? Drained? Feeling as if you have been running 100 MPH with no end in sight? Sometimes, when we are in the thick of the race of our lives, we can’t see just how hard we are working. We become so accustomed to a certain pace, it isn’t until we stop, step back, and consciously slow down that we realize just how fast we have actually been moving.

Spring season is already here and with this seasonal shift can come a sense of heaviness, dullness, and lethargy. According to Ayurveda, also known as “the science of life”, the sister science of yoga, spring is a season where excess elements of earth and water are present (think: “April Showers bring May flowers”). Earth and Water combine to create mud, a substance that is cool, sticky, and heavy. The combination of earth and water present in nature influences our mental and physical bodies creating a sense of heaviness, dullness, and lethargy; it manifests in knowing you have a to-do list 3 pages long but all you really want to do is take a nap.

If you are already feeling this way, feeling burned out and in need of an adult spring break, the temperature is only getting warmer and the intense heat of summer can be especially energy-zapping for some. For this reason, spring time is the perfect time to rev-up your self-loving rituals and treat yourself.
For this reason, we at Bristol Yoga have created the Spring Time Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat hosted at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. Tucked away in the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, this is a retreat for women geared towards helping you to re-connect with your inner goddess, recharging your emotional, mental and physical body and renewing your sense of purpose. When we connect to our divine feminine energy that is rooted in self-love, we can then harness the power of that love and align with our divine nature, finding a space in which we can nourish, nurture and sustain ourselves.

As if you needed any more convincing, here are 5 other reasons why the Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat needs to be scheduled on your Spring Calendar.

  1. You will Deepen Your Yoga Practice
    This retreat will include daily guided Asana practices allowing you the opportunity to practice in a new environment and connect with your practice on a deeper level.

     

  2. You will have the opportunity to Detox Digitally
    Of course you have access to your personal electronic devices, however, being tucked away in the mountains gives you the perfect excuse to not respond to your email immediately.

     

  3. You will Eat Healthily
    The Art of Living Retreat Center will be providing fresh, delicious Ayurveda-inspired vegetarian meals prepared by a talented chef.

     

  4. You will Discover New Adventures
    Included in this retreat is a guided nature walk, creative workshop building yantra art as well as journaling practices and exploring self-care routines.

     

  5. You will forge Deeper Connections with Yourself and Those Around You
    This retreat is geared towards helping you to connect with YOU. When we are able to develop a deeper connection with ourselves, we operate from a more authentic place and in turn can deepen the connections with those around us.

To find out more about the Spring Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat, check out the Bristol Yoga Center webpage at http://www.bristolyogacenter.com/retreats/ and even visit http://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/event-registration/?ee=171 to book your stay!

Fostering Connection for February

February is a month reminding us to cultivate connection, connection to ourselves and to all of those dearest to our hearts. We live in a society that utilizes technology to encourage connection, ironically, however, it seems we are more disconnected than ever. Technology is constantly competing for our attention with social media, emails, cell phones, and the latest and greatest iDevices. It may appear that we are cultivating connection by staying up to date with people in our lives via social media and our cell phones, but in fact, we are only distracting ourselves from the present moment, developing a relationship instead with our cell phone or social media account (you can literally train the keyboard of your phone to adapt to your texting lingo and have you ever noticed how your social media account knows all of your favorite links to browse?), and missing out on opportunity to connect with ourselves. When we miss these opportunities to connect with ourselves, our ability to connect with those around us suffers as well.

In order to function in today’s society, utilizing technology is pretty unavoidable. In fact, technology has made many good things possible, like bridging the gap between families separated by distance, enabling a more free flow of information, and creating more broadly shared communities of interest. However, there are ways to make the digital world work for you, and not the other way around, so that you can in turn build better connections with the people around you.

Here are a few tips to incorporate technology into your life in such a way that it does not disrupt your quality of life.  

  1. Establish Sacred Times
    Being mindful, make clear, conscious choices about when, where, and how you use technology in your day. Determine sacred times and spaces where you allow yourself the opportunity to “disconnect” in order to truly connect with yourself and others. For example, declare any time you are on your yoga mat a sacred time to truly spend with yourself free from technology, establish “technology free time zones” during your morning and bed time rituals so you can mindfully prepare for and unwind from your day, or ban technology from the dinner table and use that time to connect with your family and loved ones.
     

  2. Make a practice of using technology Mindfully rather than Automatically
    When new technology develops, we learn how it can connect us to loved ones, how it can help us manage our lives, and also how it can distract us. Bring awareness to what is motivating you to reach for your phone at any given moment. Are you bored and just distracting yourself? Or is it truly necessary for your job? Get clear about your intentions behind the use of your technology and even establish times FOR using technology. For example, reserve time(s) in your day specifically for replying to emails so that you can truly give them your full attention, or even reserving similar times in your day for some literal face time using your iDevice or skype network to connect with loved ones.
     

  3. Make the most of Face-to-Face Connections
    Yes, technology has helped us to maintain connections that might have otherwise been lost, but it still does not replace real, in-person connection. When you have the opportunity to share space with another individual in your life, turn off your notifications from your device or turn on airplane mode and give yourself and the other person the space to truly connect with one another free from distraction.

    Applying your mindfulness practice to your relationship with technology can serve to enhance your daily life by allowing you the space to connect more deeply with yourself as well as those around you. If you find yourself still struggling to master your relationship with your device, maybe even consider downloading one of the new mindfulness apps for your phone. Moment is an app for iOS devices that tracks the amount of time spent on your device (Moment Family monitors screen time of any family members with the app on their phone for parents looking to enforce daily limits) and a similar app is available for Android devices called BreakFree. Establish goals for yourself to spend less time on your phone overall, or with specific apps throughout your day and move forward into February with the intention to foster more meaningful connections with yourself and those around you.

 

 

Presented by Marcy Hullander