*Before I launch into my adventures I am sad to say that I had a technical “hiccup” and unintentionally deleted all of the photos off of the first 8 posts I have written. I hope you’ve all gotten a chance to see them as they’ve been published, if not, feel free to contact me and I’ll send you some photos*
Wow, technology, it’s been a while. I’ve been enjoying the peaceful environment here at the Mount Madonna center, but I promised that I’d try to update every week, so I’ll take this foggy day up in the mountains to do just that. This past week has been amazing, invigorating and challenging! This unit of my therapy training with The American Viniyoga Institute has been difficult, there’s so much information coming at me from 6:30 am to 9 (ish) pm. More on that later though, there are other things to cover first.
Besides the day of rain when I flew in from Maine, and today’s fog, it’s been absolutely gorgeous outside. A few of the days it’s been in the 80’s. The training center overlooks Monterey bay and what I think must be the Santa Cruz mountains, and is in the middle of a red wood grove. Every morning we have our first yoga practice at 6:30, so the sunrise greets us as we move. But it’s the sunsets that matter here. My first California sunset when I was a junior in high school has made quite an impression in my mind. In fact, you can see it too, the picture on the home page of my blog is from that memorable day. You just look across the endless expanse of water and there’s the sun staring back at you, saying goodbye…for now.
During the afternoon breaks I always have to go explore the trails through the red woods. It’s so humbling to be amongst those immense trees. They’re so beautiful, powerful and comforting to me. A few days ago we had a particularly intense day of training, my brain felt full to the brim, so I escaped there alone (usually I’m with some of my classmates). I went up to one of the groups of trees, stood in the middle of them and took some deep breaths and looked up at the branches reaching into the sky. I felt completely protected and peaceful amongst these noble beings. When I was completely calm I stepped out from the tree circle, turned to one of them and thanked it for helping. I’m pretty sure I said something out loud and bowed my head. When I felt complete in my expression of gratitude I turned around and there was…Nancy, one of my teachers, walking towards me. At first I felt a little embarrassed for talking to a tree, but she looked at me with a smile and said “This is just my favorite place”.
I saw my first banana slug…if you’ve never seen one before it’s exactly what it sounds like. I’ve been avoiding my phone so I didn’t get to take a picture of the enormous one I saw the other day, the thing was almost as long as my foot!!! There’s all sorts of cool wildlife here, deer and wild turnkeys just hang out on the property at all hours of the day, it’s like they’re part of the community.
It’s interesting being in California during the extended drought, everything here is a water-saving this and that. It’s eye opening to adopt some of the water saving practices here, it makes me realize how much water I could be saving at home, or anywhere really. Water is a scary topic that I’d rather not go into right now, but it’s been inspiring to do my part. My 20 minute showers at home aren’t encourage here. The toilets are all water saving, one of my teachers the other day jokingly compared us to them after we expressed how tired we were; “You guys are all sensitive beings… like the sensitive toilets here! You can only take so much shit”.
All the teachers here are awesome, it’s nice to be studying with Gary again, he is quite the wealth of information. He started studying in India at 19, so I hope to have at least half of his knowledge by the time I’m his age. You can really see the passion he has for all the aspects of this subject and it makes learning so much easier. The sangha (Sanskrit for community, association, gathering, etc) we have in this program is so wonderful. Everyone is so eager to learn and so diverse. We’ve got quite a few international people ranging from Norway to Australia to Colombia. It’s so nice to share stories, and as always with these kinds of trainings, everyone is very accepting and welcoming to me, being the youngest by about 10 years. I never feel belittled, in fact, quite the opposite. People are always interested in the story of how I got here, especially at a young age.
Yesterday was our day off, which was needed after a long week of intense studying and yoga-ing (definitely not a word). I hiked with a few of my close friends from class through the redwoods, where we met up with a paved road that would take us up to the Vietnamese Buddhist temple atop Mt. Madonna, which is separate from the Mount Madonna Center. It was quite a beautiful area to explore, there were all the different expressions of Buddha in the form of stone, metal, or wood
statues. There was even a koi pond surrounded by bamboo to walk around. I spent the rest of the day off catching up on homework and spending time with my classmates that hadn’t left the center for the day. We practiced some chanting of the yoga sutras of Patanjali, one of the great ancient indian texts. I think it started with four people, then grew to eight as more people arrived back at the training center. This all concluded with about ten or twelve of us moving into the main practice room with an assortment of instruments. We sang, laughed and played music for a few hours, with everyone lending a voice or a tap of the tambourine. I was so happy to be surrounded by such a diverse and loving group of people, even some of the teachers joined us in singing and music making. So far it has been the highlight of the training, not because of the lack of studying, I am enjoying all aspects of this session, but because of the deep feeling of connection. Everyone just let go of whatever crap they were holding on to and showed up with a lot of love. Music is such a powerful connecting force, and it’s something everyone can participate in, even humming or clapping of hands adds to the effect.
I’m really glad to be back in California, I always talked about wanting to go there in high school (and I finally did junior year). It aways seemed to have a vibe about it that I wanted to experience, so I’m happy that my second visit is an extended one. Northern California really reminds me of Maine, another place “where the mountains meet the sea”. So in a way, I’m comforted by the familiarity in the unfamiliar.
Until next time,