What does it mean to work for the highest good? To be an empowered individual? How can yoga and permaculture heal me? Heal the world?
Before attending the ASY Leadership Program I had little understanding of what the “leadership” part actually meant. I was drawn to it because for me the word tweaked something in my heart strings. As I would find out, the program led me to deep within myself, asking and encouraging me to step into my unique and innate gifts.
Athough I had been given leadership responsibilities much of my life, I had often felt powerless in matters of my heart’s calling. From my background in the theatre, for example, I was sought after as a stage manager but rarely found the courage to audition or create projects of my own despite the fact that much of my school training had been focused on original work and self-producing. I had experienced moments of confidence while leading improvisational exercises or rehearsals, and certainly I felt strong when in my own passionate creative process, but when it came to the vulnerability of sharing my vision and gifts with others, I kept backing down.
I had even explored the reasons for this phenomenon–fear of inadequacy, rejection, judgment. I knew intellectually and emotionally how these fears operated in my life and kept me from sharing my gifts fully. I had even done significant spiritual work to confront and shift the beliefs that perpetuated my fears. But until this training, I hadn’t felt the community support and mentor guidance to begin to fully transition into an empowered woman.
In the Shakti Temple
My journey was somewhat unique in that for the majority of the training I was suffering from mild-to-severe arthritis in my joints, causing mobility challenges I had never previously experienced. It is said that Lake Atitlan has transformational, Scorpio energy, and indeed many of us went through intense transformations of body, mind, and spirit. Coupled with the intensity of the combined YTT & PDC, every single one of us students became our own unique brand of spiritual warrior.
Due to my physical challenges and those of an intense educational program, I was called to practice equanimity in all aspects of my life. It was as though my Higher Self was extending her hand to me and encouraging me to search deeper and grow faster. Each day was a practice in becoming fully aware and present with my body, emotions, and thoughts, and to treat myself and others with nothing but compassion. This practice was deepened by the philosophical study, daily meditation and yoga, as well as the wisdom and mentorship offered by our teachers.
On the practical side, I discovered more in five weeks than I expected! Beyond the basic permaculture theory, we took exciting field trips to local social projects that embraced and practiced permaculture principles while also including and benefitting the native population. We discussed the history of Mesoamerica and the sociopolitical challenges facing its inhabitants, as well as the rich cultural history and wisdom of the Mayans and their agricultural contributions and wisdom. We made compost and worked on terrace beds while our brains integrated agroforestry theory, our hearts sang our deepest desires for conscious living, and our spirits began to soar on the inspiration of our teachers’ passions about swales, bees, and trees! In yoga we were hands on in anatomy, technique, and methodology; I began to feel my creativity awakening and thriving as I simultaneously drew permaculture designs and made thematic brainstorms of the holistic yoga classes I wanted to teach.
bajareque natural building for a local school
There was no doubt that I was moving in the right direction. It was an honor and privilege to see my fellow students blossoming into full expressions of their creative and powerful selves. We found the strength in our own voices and bodies; we found the groundedness of a life connected to higher wisdom, to Spirit; we found ourselves dreaming expansively about our futures and the future of Mother Earth. Together we became a strong community immersed in a world where the principles of yoga and permaculture were inextricably linked; care of self, collective, and planet wove a transformational tapestry that asked each one of us to step into a leadership role as carriers of eternal truths.
What stands out to me as unique to Awakened Spirit Yoga is the holistic approach to yoga as a spiritual practice, which means it incorporates not only all aspects of the eight limbs of yoga (as described by Patanjali), but is inclusive to other spiritual practices such as the Earth spirituality of the ancient Mayans and other native peoples. This opens the door to permaculture and sustainability/thrivability as not only “Earth and people care”, but spirit care. The student is encouraged to explore his or her own relationship to esoteric and mystical explorations, and each student is given the tools to create and build upon the foundations of the training however that student feels called to as his or her dharma. That kind of empowerment and practice of humility is what makes a good leader.
So finally, I want to say a resounding “thank you” to Julia, Hayley, and everyone else teaching with Awakened Spirit Yoga and The Yoga Forest for bringing me towards my empowered divine feminine, towards that nurturing and subtle strength within me that enables me to share my gifts in service of others. I have felt the power within myself to affect change, starting with myself and reverberating outwards. Due the very intentional, caring, and generous facilitation of our teachers we emerged from the chrysalis of ASY’s program into butterflies manifesting healing and empowerment for all beings.
I am opening up in a sweet surrender to the luminous love light of the One!
Om shanti shanti shanti
Participant Nov/Dec 2015 ASY Leadership Program