An Open Letter For The Community

Darshan

Students of both Ayurveda and Yoga will have studied, at least a little bit, the Shad Darshan. Shad means six, and this case, the darshans are ways of seeing, or philosophies. The thing to remember about philosophies on life is that none of them are “right” or “wrong” but maybe they are helpful in our quest to understand reality, or to make sense of the human experience somehow. It is this quest, in my own life, that fuels my study of Ayurveda and yoga. What interests me most in the past year or two is how the study and practice of these systems begins to change one’s point of view. I struggle to explain it, but I can say that I understand things about yoga and Ayurveda now, because I feel them. Maybe it just takes so many years before this starts to happen, its as though the practice opens the channels for the feeling, and then the information one might read in the classics means something, makes sense.

The word darshan pops up a lot while visiting Hindu temples. To have “darshan of Vishnu” for example, means you made it into the temple, close enough to make out the eyes of the statue. The eyes are sometimes jeweled, or painted brightly. The root of the word drsh (like Drishti, for the ashtangis) means to view. The sight of a deity in temple goes two ways: one sees holiness, and is seen by it. Like the relationship between a yoga teacher and student, or an Ayurveda practitioner and a client, there is the activity of being seen, as well as beholding. It is a holy thing. yoga and Ayurveda provide opportunities in my life on a daily basis to share this holiness. There is in being seen, and seeing simultaneously, a moment of absolute presence and significance. It’s the cosmic “here we are!” moment.

The direction I would like to go as a student and teacher is more of these moments, for everyone. Through the programs I’m designing this year, a combination of in-person and online activity, I intend to create community and opportunity to experience darshan of Ayurveda and yoga. To teach and to learn together in a way that changes us. With study and practice, evolution of the self is inescapable.

 

Social Media and Sattva

This summer, I took a sabbatical and I see even more clearly how the way of the social media keeps getting more demanding of those who rely on it to make a living. The amount of information and marketing out there is staggering. I don’t like to think of my peeps wading through daily feeds and seeing a glimpse of what I’m up to. A far cry from darshan! What I do like is to let you all know where and when and what, so we continue to connect with one another. But what I would like to change about how it’s working, is to send a quality newsletter- and know that my peeps will see it. I’d like to give you the opportunity to connect with me, my whens and wheres, and also my current contemplations on the sister sciences, without having to troll for it. In that effect, I will be upping my newsletter to monthly, and will try to keep it short. You can expect an original recipe, probably something I’m messing around with in my own kitchen, a deep thought or two, and of course announcements about upcoming events and things like my next project, The Sattvic Living Institute. I’ll be releasing information and opportunities a little at a time over the next year or so. Please stay connected by signing up for my newsletter.

 

Sacred Cyberspace

In the November newsletter, I’ll be launching an experiment in keeping you all in touch with each other, to have a place where you know you are not the only one in your sphere working the yoga and Ayurveda…a place to be uplifted and inspired by your community, your peers, when you need it most and a place to share your wins and helpful hints with people who you know will appreciate it. We unveil a private space for all Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook enthusiasts, for past cleansers, Boston Ayurveda School grads, and (hopefully) for you, in a closed facebook group Sacred Cyberspace. I do hope to make this a sacred cyberspace. Until such time as we find a place that is more sattvic than Facebook, we are going to house it there. However, I want to be clear about our intentional use of social media here. We want to connect you to each other. You can inspire each other simply by sharing what you are already doing, the ways that you have already made Ayurveda part of your life. Sharing your questions and your kitchen messes can create profound community. I know, because you inspire me. I see what you are doing and I am inspired. In this group we are not constantly producing new content to market ourselves to the world of social media’s evolving trends for attention.

Stay tuned for the link to the Sacred Cyberspace for Everyday Ayurveda closed facebook group.

OM!

Kate

Book Release: "Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind"

EverydayAyurvedaCookbook-2.jpg

It's here! I present to you:

"Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind"

now available wherever good books are sold

purchase   learn more

I wrote Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind because when we begin to implement dietary changes, we inevitably end up face to face with behavioral patterns that underlie our food choices. Changing any one aspect of the daily life will cause a ripple effect. CHANGE is the basic activity of the mind. Knowing when to be still, when to create change, and when to resist it is the basis of mental balance. Translate that to say the right amount of work, quiet time, exercise, and rest will support mental balance.

As I work with Ayurveda and real people, I continually see that imbalances in the pace of modern life (dare I say the aim of life?), underlie a lot of discomforts in mind and body. Simply finding a natural desire to create good space in the mind, to feel at ease, happy, relaxed, is the beginning of Sattva, and I do intend this book to spark that desire with its beauty, its simplicity, its heartfelt words, images, and of course, recipes.  Finding our way towards a diet of life-giving foods, local and seasonal when possible, minimally processed, vegetarian, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes, will absolutely change the mind-scape. The Sattvic diet is about enjoying food that connects us to ourselves and the planet, that provides experiences of beauty and pleasure, and nourishes us on all levels. It sounds like a big deal, but anyone who desires a calm, clear mind will do well to cook from this book and I am not surprised if readers find that it works.

From idea to on sale, it has been almost 4 years of effort and attention. A huge thanks to all of you who pre-ordered, because of you we are Amazon's #1 New Release in Ayurvedic Medicine. Your copies should be in your kitchen in no time.

Thank you also to Cara Brostrom, who contributes a lot more than photography and has been with the Everyday Ayurveda books since before day one. Her work makes these books look and taste so good, and her encouragement and Ayurvedic excitement is what first brought my little packets of one paragraph recipes out into the world.

Thank you to cooking superstars Risa Horn and Carabeth Connolly who handcrafted the food you'll find in these pages. And again to Carabeth Connolly, our Master Recipe Tester and the whole recipe testing team! To Allison Meierding, our all star book designer!

Thank you to the editor who started it all Rochelle Bourgeault, to Juree Sondker and everyone Shambhala Publications and Roost Books. To my manuscript readers, thank you for your time and your honesty, Dr. Robert Svoboda, Erin Casperson,

Hilary Garivaltis, Dr. Anusha. And ongoing gratitude to the faculty and students of the Boston Ayurveda School.


With dedication to the Ayur Vidya, the spirit of Ayurveda, and to all the gurus and vaidyas of past, present, and future. May the lineage of Ayurvedic study which inspired this text and recipes inspire you to cultivate satisfaction and peace of mind every day.

OM!

 

Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Therapeutics

Recently my friend and colleague Karen Kirkness, founder of Meadowlark Yoga Edinburgh, asked me how I felt about the use of therapeutics in the Mysore room. This might involve research postures, or props, and general deviations from the vinyasa aspect of the system in times of injury or blockage. Here is what I replied.

The thing I'm thinking abt recently is how the magic Ashtanga can reveal to us is present in the vinyasa not in the asana. It is the unifying principle of the practice, rather than its composite parts that enlightens us. For the western mind it's so easy to fixate on the obvious, tangible form of an asana- and this is where alignment cues, while necessary for health and safety at times, tend to take center stage in the mind. When too many months or years go by without a focus on the unifying principles of Ashtanga (Trishtana and vinyasa) and the individual's BELIEF that such unification can be present in ones practice DESPITE pain and injury [which are omnipresent actually]--students may lose touch with this mystical aspect of Yoga. It is important to note that this unification of which I speak is experienced in the mind, and the body is only its vehicle.

The word vinyasa was originally used to describe the specific placement of an action in the larger manifestation of a ritual. Therefore, the concept of vinyasa, as I use the word, does not necessarily refer to jump-back jump-through, but implies instead the larger picture of self-transformation and the steady evolution of our practice as an attribute of a Life lived in touch with mystery, magic, and the depths of human experience.

OM

 

Repost from 2008! On butt-washers.

A conversation today prompted me to track down my old blog one-yoga.blogspot. Reading this, I see wow how much India has changed and the experience here in Mysore for yoga students. Here is a post from 2008, when butt-washers were a new thing around here! My first trip to India was in 1998- there were butt-washers in some areas then, but definitely still the bucket-flush method. I will spare you any stories of my past here with buckets... 

01/16/08 God Speaks

I haven’t quite figured out which direction to point the butt-washer to avoid spraying water all over the back of the toilet. The “butt-washer” looks just like the sprayer in your kitchen sink, but its coming out of the wall where one might expect to see a roll of toilet paper. Rather than the now old-fashioned method of big bucket-little dipper (a science unto itself) butt-washers are popping up in modern Indian homes. However, the western style toilet has also caught on, which when coupled with the butt-washer, is just plain awkward, in my opinion. I miss squatters. My Amma in Chennai said it best: “I don’t understand this western toilet. I find it much less clean to put the behind where another’s has been than to put the feet.” Amen. 
It’s things like this that make India such a unique travel experience. Confusion in the most simple, yet inescapable of arenas. In so many ways, we are all plucked from our lives here and plunked down in a land where what usually validates us is distant. We are called to redefine our routines and expectations constantly. For instance you thought you had the bowel movement thing worked out, but now there’s water everywhere. Next time. And in this, perhaps we may be gifted with the Grace we are all seeking. Validation in our own Divinity.
God speaks through Butt-washers, yes it’s true. 
Our mission here, should we choose to accept it, is to let go the need to have it figured out. The western traveler’s face is often an unmasked display of confusion. Sometimes frustration. Rarely playfulness. At the temple sites and cow-filled intersections, you see looks of amazement and sometimes delight, but rarely in line at the train station or while haggling with a rick-shaw driver. Can we keep the drishti on Grace in even these times? Challenging times are more common in India, anyone might tell you that. My friend Mahesh: “Shit man, this place works me and I’m Indian. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you guys.” Amen again.

Sharathji is working his skinny butt off with all of us in there, sweating it out as though we might gain some of that Divinity (even a sprinkle?) from the daily pursuit of asana. I have come to know for myself, its more about the “daily” part of it than how jamming I can be today and what anybody else thinks about it. A daily observance of my own evolution, a safe place to do the work, health benefits, and a really fun time (provided I am living a lifestyle of enough sleep and clean food). If I can just remember to laugh at myself; if I can just remember to smile while I move and breath… this is a good start to the day. Maybe when the phone hangs up, internet crashes, belly hurts, I will be that much closer to smiling. Life is a Vinyasa, start to finish. It’s the same thing always we are remembering, despite the shapes and sounds we are making in this world.

Mysore Mothership 2018: Balancing Stability and Deep Transformation

With sub-zero temperatures back home in Boston, Im pretty happy to be in Mysore. It is a new paradigm here as the group of maybe, 300?, is not changing over at the beginning of a new month. The same group of students will persevere until January end. The assistants are changing over, and I‘ll be on first batch, from 4-630ish AM, followed by a rather long practice. By 6:30 the walls are sweating and I go wash my feet, change my soaked clothes, and wait for a practice space to open up. It is quite an honor to assist Sharathji and I feel a little shift as it is my second time with the early batch now and Im less nervous! Last season, I found it a learning curve to assist in someone else’s mysore room after being only in my own room for 10 years. People practice differently here than they would at home, when one has to teach or go to work right after. When there’s nothing pressing, and you don’t even have to cook your food if you don’t want to (though Rich and I do), you can really put your all into the practice. 

When I started teaching in my 20s, my life had consisted of only epic morning practices, a foraged fruit diet, and hitchhiking around to odd jobs when I could get them. Living on the porch at Nancy's (I remind you I started the yoga/travel life at 19 and never had a more conventional “life” situation) with a rotating cast of mystical characters added to the ambience. As my east-coast roots and family ties took hold, the calls from Boston came and your desire for a teacher called me from the gulches of Maui. Coming to you all in Boston, I learned so much about the “real world.”  How I offered the practice to each person became a live process of observing how the practice fits into the rest of life. I find it a unique, and familiar, expression of imbalance to have little else in the life but asana practice. So here I am assisting in the middle of it all! Majority of the people in the first batch are also teachers, so supporting them in this short time where they get to focus on their own practice is quite a meaningful time, but also a bit of a dance, as I don’t know their bodies at all! And I know you all from looking at you every day for years! It is a neat skill that requires absolute presence for what the moment is presenting, rather than relying on a cumulative experience. It requires the heart, the eyes, and the hands, and an experiential familiarity with the way energy moves in bodies. I try to be well rested, digested, and alert, then there is nothing to do but trust in the past 10 years of teaching to serve us now as we do some very intense backbending together. 

Bear with me. I guess what Im reflecting on is the intersection of daily life and Yoga, and the evolution of the mind. As usual. Is it our goal, as practitioners, as aspiring yogis, some of us as stewards of yoga communities, to cultivate the kind of presence where yoga is manifesting in its Absolute fullness as we practice asana, and all the other stuff melts away…AND simultaneously cultivate the ability to fluidly, and willingly, shift the attention back to the daily life when the shower/hairdry/dress happens, as I watch the crew head off on the demanding road to work? Here’s the thing. In my experience, the fabric which hangs between these two modes of attention becomes a thinner and thinner weave. Yoga pokes through at the most surprising times, like shooting stars, and we might not even notice it as such, in the beginning. Until the fabric between daily life and Yoga is a silken filament, there to nurture and protect us while we balance stability and deep transformation. Life moves in us as a rhythmic breeze, and its current becomes something omnipresent in our awareness, most palpable in the essence of movement and breath practice. Which is why the practices draws us in. Isn’t that why we love it?

Oh, it is from this sacred place I aspire to teach, to assist this month, to live this life! And it is this current of Life I hope to share with you all as I return to Beantown. Thank you for that opportunity.

OM

Kate

Choosing Ashtanga

Paths diverged a handful of times in my first decade of studying yoga. I had opportunities to enter the world of Yoga Journal conferences, high-end studios in majestic places, and my photo on the cover of this or that. Every time it came up, I chose ashtanga, and gave a silent prayer for my future self who seemed destined to remain a broke unknown, devoted to an obscure method.

As a practitioner, I kept choosing ashtanga because nothing else felt right. It was the first yoga method I experienced as a traveler in India, and from then on anything else just didn’t’ get me excited. Ashtanga got me excited! There was all my crap - in my face - for an hour and a half, clear as day! And a little bit disgusting, the Ego was. My commitment to getting to know this aspect of “myself,” and to transcend it is what kept me practicing. I hitchhiked to drop-in classes when there was no ashtanga class anywhere, and the music, the changing sequences, seemed to somehow get between me and the inner work I had set out to do. Any of our students will tell you: it is the heart that keeps you coming. A pure love of the practice, paired with a thirst for evolution; it’s undeniable.

As a teacher, I kept choosing ashtanga because of the Mysore method of teaching. The opportunity to work with students one-on-one, as the group bolsters each other practicing together, yet individually, allows me to feel like I can really help people. Observing them closely, I come to know how the practice moves in them, and where they need to go. I can take my time, or bust some chops, depending what any individual needs to learn at this time. Upon entering the room, each student makes a commitment to studying the self, and to being seen. The breath is always at the forefront, and distractions are at a minimum. Each student has signed up for this specific way of learning yoga, there is no one-time drop-in, no wandering in unaware. The method of teaching and practicing is specific: a practice of breath, movement, and mental focus moves towards the goal of self-transformation. My teachers taught me by example, and I trust the method works. I feel very lucky.

OM

Shifts in Seasonal Eating: Late Winter Insights

You know I usually travel out to India in the winters, but there were a few years recently where I wintered through in Boston to see what its all about.

The main thing I noticed, in regards to general seasonal changes and Ayurvedic routines,  I would like to share with you:

When it is very cold, the fires recede into the core of the body, the digestion actually gets stronger, and heavier foods are craved, and needed, then digested well. I got on an enjoyable program of enjoying more oat bars and whole grain cookies and spiced milk. But here’s the thing.

It was in March- and perhaps even late February for those of you who live in warmer climes- that my cravings for the cookies began to subside. BUT, I kept eating the cookies. Because its still not nice out, its still relatively cold (thought not freezing), Im still wearing big jackets and boots- man- don’t take my cookies!? While the spring please doesn’t happen until April, March proved to be a very important time to slowly begin changing the diet to lighter foods. (I often replace dairy milk with non-dairy, eat less sweets, and choose hot cereal over pancakes or eggs.) 

When I kept eating the cookies, I had a harder time adjusting to the damp spring, experienced more mucous, a more sensitive immune system, and ended up catching a cold that caused me to finally give up the cookies anyhow. It could have been smoother! The following year, I watched for the change in my appetite, which did come very early in March (earlier than I expected it to, I remember). You will notice it does go with the weather, when it warms up the appetite goes down. If you eat according to appetite when this happens- rather than sticking with the food routines which have been serving you through the winter- your body will naturally burn off winter weight and mucous, and you will have an easier transition, and enjoy better health.

 

Digestive Tricks for Winter Festivities ... and Beyond!

This winter I published some helpful digestive tricks (and a bonus recipe!) for those of us preparing for winter festivities this season on my newsletter. If you are not yet signed up for my newsletter, you can sign up at the bottom of the page.

I am all for celebrating the holidays and indulging in special beloved treats with family and friends. That said, we all know the holidays can also be quite taxing on digestion and therefore the body. Here are a few tips and tricks to help keep your digestion on track.


To preserve a happy gut this season, try any of the following:

Before Meals:
• Eat a thin slice of ginger with a squeeze of lemon about 15 minutes before to increase Agni (digestive fire).
• OR
• Take ¼ tsp of ginger powder, and ¼ tsp of black pepper in a cup of water.
 
During Meals
• Sip warm water, a small cup, with your meal.  
• Eat slowly, take rests between mouthfuls, sit back and make it last.
 
After Meals
• Take Ama Buster, ginger tea, or mint tea.
• Avoid any other beverages, even water, for about 2 hours.  
• Lie on your left side for 15-20 minutes.
• Get up and take a light walk outside.
 
Dr. Chauhan’s Ama Buster
ake a paste of 1 Tbsp grated ginger, 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp coriander, 2 Tbsp Mint, and 2 Tbsp fennel by smushing with mortar and pestle.  Refrigerate and take 1 tsp after meals for the holidays and at least a few days
after.

Looking for a new warming and cheerful beverage for the holiday season? Ayurveda, after all, is the art of indulence...

Christmas Cape Codder
4 cups unsweetened cranberry juice (like Knudsen’s Just Cranberry)
OR 1-cup whole cranberries and 3.5 cups water
1 chopped apple
4 cups water
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6-8 drops stevia or 4 tsp honey
Vodka to taste (if you must : ) )
 
Blend first 2 ingredients.  Warm on the stove with all other ingredients for about 15 minutes. Pour through strainer into mugs for virgin drinks, or take off the heat, stir in honey, then add vodka in a shaker and pour into martini glasses.  You can garnish with cinnamon stick.

 

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!