The Universe Has Your Backside in Baja

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Our Lady of Guadeloupe roadside shrine, Transpeninsular Highway, Baja California Sur

Get Away

Why do we travel? I left for Mexico for new perspective and to relax. The political climate and the collective anxiety were rocking me. I had been repeatedly robbed multiple times by my neighbor this fall, I was fighting with my girlfriend, had island fever SLO-style and I just needed to be outside more. Camping down the Baja with four strangers sounded great.

We should count ourselves lucky that it was eight long weeks into our trip to Baja that we began to engage the pile-o’-poo emoticon.

I ate the most ridiculously delicious tortilla soup on Tuesday. Experience tells me that only MSG can make food taste that good. MSG is a contaminant if you are sensitive to gluten. Plus, I ate ceviche two days in a row last weekend,swam in a pool under a waterfall and got water in my mouth… how did I get sick? No sé. My brain and bowels are just starting to function to where I can could out of bed two days ago,but I’m back in bed again.

In addition to my Mexican food poisoning this week, one of the gals in our crew was diagnosed with a parasite yesterday (dwarf tapeworm – charming) and tonight I got The Big D. She and I have been eating the same things, so I am a little spooked that I might have the dreaded parasite known as tapeworm, too.

I’ll poop in a cup in the morning.

Fortunately, I lucked out and I am staying at this really nice place where it’s kind of a luxury to rest for days and watch the wind in the palm trees and the sky change over the cerro and the sea, and I am feeling better… and then worse… I binged on Netflix’s Stranger Things while semi-comatose this week, so the tapeworm visual is pretty fresh I am a little freaked out, but if I got it, I got it and they can get it with meds.

Tengo allergia a harina y trigo. 

Living with gluten-, soy-, dairy- and other food intolerances has made the simple act of eating my most dedicated mindfulness meditation. Even so, I get inadvertently food poisoned. “I have an allergy to flour and wheat” was one of the first things I trained myself to say in Spanish on this trip.

 

One usually finds the same things traveling that they do at home, though, right? The language, landscape and textiles change.

Here in Baja I’ve found kindness, like at home, and some good Yoga, and some drama, and some Yoga drama. I got quiet again thanks to the remoteness of Baja and far away enough to notice the dance of my own ego with my mind. My ego enjoys inconveniences to a degree, because my mind gets off on finding solutions from which my ego can grow. That makes my mind and ego feel useful and I feel an immediate gratification from acting upon my sense of purpose. It’s spiritual growth. Dirty water, dirty vegetables, camping, fake news, fake facts, corruption – it’s all inconvenient, but I can grow from it. We get badges on our imaginary sashes for overcoming all this.

With Travel Comes Clarity

Home is calling with a bigger purpose. I have been offered to steward an established Yoga studio in SLO County, so in the last couple weeks I have been praying and attuning and working on that from here. I have a lover at home whom I miss, even though we drove each other crazy before I left – but we’re growing. We have a friend from the twelve step community who died in an accident this week, and I want to be home to grieve and celebrate, in shock, in fellowship, which strengthens community ties.

Falter and Fly

I’ll go home back to the USSR, er… um… I mean, to the US (I couldn’t help myself), with the new perspective that every country has their pros and cons, and with the appreciation for life and love that only separation and death can reveal to us, and with a renewed purpose which is expressed by my work and mission, a renewal which only the universe and the distance of travel could bring.

Stay healthy. Be safe!

Yoga in Baja

IMG_5838I drove in a caravan of three cars, three dogs, two trailers, and five women to Baja in December on a reconnaissance mission-slash-much needed vacation.

A woman I knew while finishing Yoga Therapy training in Grass Valley owns property here on the beautiful East Cape of the Sea of Cortez. She is interested in developing an off-grid spiritual retreat center. She invited me on an adventure because she knows I am interested in the same damn thing.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Baja without some trouble, though, now, would it?

Thirteen hundred miles and two flat tires later, having abandoned one trailer after getting stuck in quicksand, with my suitcase, tent and other perceived essentials 100 kilometers north of La Paz, we have arrived safely at our destination north of Cabo San Lucas.

We are smirking and swearing a lot, eating amazing food, including local chocolate and fish caught by the ladies, playing Cards Against Humanity, swimming, SUPing, doing Yoga, getting tan, nearly suffocating with laughter and planning our permanent relocation here.

It is Shangri-La and I hesitate to name the town. I want to keep this place a secret. However, if you’d like to come down, meditate, go offline from time to time, leave the current administration behind and enjoy restorative Sunshine Therapy, let me know and maybe we can arrange it!

Happy New Year

 

 

 

Everyone Was Coming Off Psych Meds In Yoga Class Tonight

10483306_10203263186093284_9187530179595185087_oCal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Recreation Center, Studio 2, 5:25pm Wednesday night. Restorative Yoga Class taught by me. Three students: two staff members, and one participant who is staff and a student.

I ask, “I am a Yoga therapist. I bring Yoga into the medical community. My passion is yoga and mental health. Anyone have anything significant going on they’d like addressed during this session, physical or emotional or mental or spiritual? It’s a small class, so we can tailor it.”

Girl in the middle says, “I’m coming off anti-depressants after a decade. I am having brain zaps. I’m getting through it but it’s been crazy.” She was describing detoxing.

The guy on her right says, “I wrote a book about my experience coming off anti-depressants. It took months to feel better.” He turns to the girl in the middle and says, “We should talk after class.”

There is a global movement: coming off psych meds. It’s hip.

There’s a place for medication, right? Sometimes it’s forced on people. I’m not sure if that’s right, ethically. I take medication daily. I fear the-coming-off. I question if I could appreciate life’s turbulent environment without defiantly losing my mind. (I couldn’t stop myself when I was younger. It was defiance for justice. I was enraged and uneducated. I had no alternative then. It seemed like the right – the only thing to do.)

There’s no long-term research on the medication that I take. My life has been shortened already, I am convinced: kidney and thyroid dysfunction after ten years of using prescribed lithium carbonate. I consider coming off the current drug more and more frequently, – I consider it only briefly, each time… wondering if I trust the support around me… if I could handle “it”…  I always, so far, decide I am doing alright for now. My life span might be shorter because I take medication, but the quality of my life right now is really good. I’m alive. My sister is not. My dad’s not well.

This free .pdf,  Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Of Psychiatric Drugs, written by Will Hall, could offer more info on how to stop using psych meds wisely – for you or those you love.

My student tonight, Brian A. Schultz, has a program, The 90 Day Happiness Project, a holistic approach for those suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression, including a cookbook, mindfulness audio tracks, and more. Get it on Amazon.

A life coach, Brian came up and thanked me after class. “I want to know about your book,” I said.”I wrote a book, but it’s a program. I was on anti-depressants from the age of 12 until I was 21,” Brian said. “I came off cold turkey. I wouldn’t recommend it.”  His program describes how he lives well now in recovery. “My program is a lot like this class. Mindfulness is a big part of my program.”

All three participants were spacey, relaxed and joyful when class ended tonight. Yay!

I kept thinking, What are the chances that two out of three students in Restorative Yoga tonight have had the same experience? I told them to KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT.

I felt like I was in the flow, offering Yoga therapy tonight, out loud for mental health… I also felt like it would really, truly be possible to write my own book. Would you read it? What would you want to read about?

Peace AUM

On Seclusion: Do nothing

Along with silence and mindful breathing, seclusion is accessible, often overlooked and under-appreciated medicine. Different than isolation, seclusion is a foundational practice for sages and artists, called The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People.

Einstein, Kafka, Tesla, Picasso all lived creative, productive lives with the help of seclusion.

Seeking shelter in these times – for rest, contemplation, space for creative pursuits – is a radical, necessary, pacifying and appropriate act to maintain mental stability and resilience.

What are you creating that could use a boost – family? career? An extraordinary relationship? A personal paradigm shift? A healing lifestyle? Consider secluding to write, rest, dream, zone out and tune in. Don’t worry about looking lazy! With so much pressure to produce in this industrialized culture, resting may be the antidote for the Atomic Age – the period of history following the first artificial, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. This science-fiction-turned-reality ushered in profound changes in sociopolitical thinking, lifestyle, the course of technology development and our health. Slow it down.

My meditation practice has changed this year. I fell in love and now live with my partner. I also altered my business, so my daily rhythm is not as controllable as it once was. When I lived alone, I could easily sit and meditate for hours a day. What bliss!!! I have voluntarily exchanged some of my idealistic meditation sadhana (spiritual practice) – ideal in an ashram setting, which my home had been, living alone so long – with a relationship sadhana, and a kitchen sadhana, a puppy sadhana (we just adopted a Maltipoo!) and a seclusion sadhana. Empathic, I need alone time to recharge. I love the quiet, shaded house while my love is away. I love our bed, where I write and rest. I love listening to the windchimes and working at my own pace.

“Cabin fever:” seclusion may have reached a peak and it might be time to shift to more public activity – to participate. This could be as brief as a trip to the store to buy apples. Making a phone call might be plenty, or open the way to more overt activity. Facebook? To participate or not to participate? A weekly meeting with a consistent group of people (a class or self-help group, for example) and one-on-one time with trusted friends are two healthy social scenarios. I appreciate 12 Step recovery groups – consistent group meetings with a repetitive, predictable format ease stress for me.

Practicing mindful seclusion is encouraged to avoid burning out either end – with either too much participation or from too much seclusion. Trust yourself that you will know the difference.

My spiritual practice includes approaching, with wisdom, an indulgence in quietude and in good company as I feel ready – without pressure or rushing, guilt-free.

Clarity comes with calmness. Calmness comes with quietude. Quietude results from seclusion. As monks, poets and artists: do what might look like nothing – a simple, effective reset for better health.

Come participate in healthy seclusion in a small group setting Saturday, July 15 at Grateful Spirit Yoga in Atascadero. Register at http://www.brookewestyoga.com/workshops

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What This Scorpio Full Moon Was Like For Me

Everybody was talking about it. Death, rebirth, veil between the worlds thin, ask for your big wishes because the others on the far side of the veil are waiting to help you.

When I was sick – I mean, out-of-the-hospital sick, and for those next years – I mean, like, eight, ten years – I was not fit to work any normal, 40-hour per week job. Sometimes I had to isolate because of social anxiety and debilitating depression. I had to leave places early, without saying goodbye. I whittled my activities down so I could hang out with myself, in my head, undisturbed, for as long as possible.

Today, my life is blessed with activities and friends, self-help and mysticism. I am charged by the feeling I get when I serve, and helping those who want to participate or receive.

I stopped and talked to this homeless guy after dropping of my computer for repair downtown at the Apple store. Calm, quiet, blonde, blue-eyed, Rasta hat hiding dreadlocks. I asked if I could ask him a question. He was cheered and said, “Yes.” I told hime I was a psychiatric survivor. He said, “Oh, cool.” Not exactly the response I expected, but I had his attention.

I asked him what his life was like and what he needed – showers? No, he can get that. Laundry? No, he can find that. Food? No, CalFresh takes care of that. What’s that? Food stamps. Oh, yeah. It’d been so long since I’d been on food stamps, I forgot what they called it. So, what did he need? A job.

Something meaningful. A purpose.

People experiencing spiritual emergence and emergency can’t work like we think of work. Lots of rest is needed, lots of breaks. Lots of contemplation, lots of snacks, lots of enjoyment. How do we bring folks like this, like I was, into the circle? They’re part of the chain, though invisible. They’re kind, if you are, usually. We all want to be heard and respected.

When I asked his name, he sat up tall, stuck out his hand and said his first, middle and last names. I shook his hand and told hime mine. He said, “I’ve heard of you.”

I could see the magic in his eyes, the knowing. It gave me energy. I left him on his bench by Barnes and Noble, cheered.

Twenty minutes later, the chakra in my right hand, where we had exchanged energy, was open, a clear wheel of pure light energy. It felt like a portal to the stars.

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Yoga Therapy Suggestions for a Frantic Mom

My private Yoga Therapy practice has taken off in the last six months, thank God. I get to help people doing what I do very well: sharing experiences, resources and the Light of Yoga. In the process of consulting with prospective clients, I ask a lot of questions, filtering, curiously, listening for compatibility. I am learning a ton – about boundaries, my scope of practice, who I can actually help with Yoga therapy and meditation… and that I have a trove of supportive tools that I would like to share, as a survivor and as a holistic healer. I share what I can in hour-ish-long calls and I follow up, because I care deeply about our community.

I received an email from a very worried, almost frantic single mom whose ten year old son is experiencing extreme combativeness and rage. He has turned tables over at school, he is bored and probably very bright. His father has addiction issues, parents separated.  He lives with his mom and toddler sister at his grandmother’s house. They’ve moved a lot,changed schools. One of his school therapists has suggested Oppositional Defiance Disorder as a diagnosis, stating that, for a boy with no history of trauma, he sure is acting out. Excuse me? No trauma? Are we… talking about the same kid? Yeah, but we are observing from totally different angles, listening for different things.

I suggested that his mother use critical thinking concerning her son and the system’s rejection of his cries for understanding. She was heartbreakingly worried about her boy, and financially strapped, and exhausted. I offered her hope, thank God. I would like to share some of what might have helped her through the next few weeks while she waited to hear about being hired for a new job that would offer more stability and choices for care.

Dear A,

Nice to talk with you – R is fortunate that you care so much for him!

Suggestions:
  • Alateen – looks like ages 13-18 but keep it in mind. http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/try-an-alateen-chat-meeting
  • Weighted blankets/swaddling/tucking him in /deep pressure/gentle stroking
  • http://www.exercisebuddy.com Created for but not limited to children with autism, may be helpful since it’s on a device and he responds to that. Reward him for five minutes in the morning, perhaps? Get him moving regualrly, ten minutes per day and have him notice how he feels before he starts and after so he has direct experience of the results. 
  • Martial Arts
  • Swim and other “free” activities without structure
  • Finding the right teacher(s) that he resonates with
  • Remembering that R isn’t wrong, he is maybe perfectly right in a world full of wrong; his self-soothing techniques of humming and hugging are appropriate. Consider avoiding using touch as punishment or reward but possibly as a short-term soothing technique for three minutes each evening, for example.
  • Practice your own five minute daily meditation. Even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom. This may be the most difficult suggestion of all! He’ll model you, though. The effects will be noticeable. You might not mention that you are doing it at first. Try morning or evening or both – try evening after everyone is in bed. Meditation may refer to a moving meditation, like a sun salutation or Energization Exercises. R might respond to this video more – quick and cool Australian surfer guy adapting the Energization in less than three minutes. Morning or morning and night might be good.
  • deep breathing before sleep, six or twelve breaths
  • alternate nostril breathing
  • Humming Breath as Yogic Science for Stress Relief:
  • Quiet Time and Transcendental Meditation in Schools:
Tulsi Bagnoli teaches Transcendental Meditation. I am not sure how much it costs (I think it’s a one-time payment) or if she teaches to children (she probably does) but you might reach out to her. yogawithtulsi@gmail.com
Everyone responds differently to different people, different styles of Yoga and meditation. Keep trying!
I know what you are going through is exhausting for you. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts. If other resources come to mind, I will send them along, as well.
Her inspired, gorgeous, gracious reply:
Hi Brooke,

Thank you so much for all the resources and suggestions you have sent.  I am looking into all of these things – slowly but surely.  I also appreciate your encouragement to listen to myself – my gut, my thoughts and instincts – in doing what is best for R and help him find balance in an out-of-balance world.  
I think I will know any day now (or, at most, sometime in the next 2 weeks) if I got that job in town.  Because it’s really going to shape our immediate future – my decisions and commitments.  If I get the job, I’d like to talk with you more and seriously about committing to a practice with you, which would extend into a larger lifestyle practice.  If not, I would still like to consider meeting for a session or two, but I would need to do more research on your various recommendations to decide where we would need the most guidance.
And, last, I need to follow through on my own mental health.  These last three years have been tremendously stressful for me – and a large part of that is I’ve lost my quiet center.  Not having my own space, being under another’s roof, has been a real challenge, as I haven’t been able to completely relax, completely let down, the way one does in their own home.  And I kept putting the effort off, thinking my own space is just around the corner – and, in a way, it is.  But the inner turmoil has gotten so loud that it’s hard to hear my inner self – to hear my own thoughts – and make those big decisions. And, right now, I do need to find my quiet core, so I can help guide my son to find his.
So, these next couple weeks, as I wait for that phone call or email, as I stand at this crossroad and look out on these variable life paths, I am going to practice some quiet meditation, through yoga and exercise – and I will do those deep breaths.  And when I have a bit of clarity, or at least news, I will contact you.  Please know that I understand that your schedule may change during these next weeks as well, so I will understand if your availability changes while I take time to figure things out.  No worries.
I very much appreciate the time and thought that you have given to me and my family.  You have given me so much think about, as well as a feeling of hope and wellness.
Thank you again,
A
Keep listening.
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# EmergingProud #InternationalSpiritualEmergenceNetwork

#EmergingProud is an international campaign bringing voice and awareness to the awakening of consciousness, and Divine aspects of extreme states. Healing is brought to the world through these extraordinary – or ordinary – experiences. LSD, near-death experiences, psychosis, kundalini, channeling, shamanic crisis, past life experience – all these and more can lead to changes in personal character, unitive consciousness, spiritual emergence, psychological and social renewal. Awaken to your gifts. Katie Mottram, you acclaimed me! #gratitude #internationalspiritualemergencenetwork #meditate safely #aum

Read my essay-poem in the campaign here!

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Peace!