Tend To Your Internal Flame
Fire is mysterious. Fire is dangerous. Fire out of control can take down entire environments. Fire can also heal and nourish. Fire holds an important history in our mythology – as we learned to bring the element under our control, we found that it held the same potential for damage, but now we could wield it at our will. From that point forward, humans exerted great control over the natural environment, for better and for worse. We utilize the element of fire to cook our food, to keep away the dangers of night, to light our spaces long after the fire of the sun travels out of view. At this time of year, the darkest time as we approach the Winter Solstice, fire keep us warm at night and brings us light.
In many cultures, fire is sacred, and offerings are made to the fire for cultivation of intentions and for release. How can we harness the power of fire to tend to our internal flames of dedication and evolution? How can we lead a life of light and energy? Fire offers us many lessons.
How to tend to your flames and connect to the fire element
When my children were small, we read many books on Waldorf philosophy, and even used Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for a time. Waldorf stressed the importance of letting children have access to the four main elements every day. Children needed time to play with the earth – dirt, sand, mud; time to connect with water – rivers, brooks, or just in the bath tub; time to connect with air – fans, bubbles, and kites; and time to connect with fire – bonfires, campfires, fireplaces, candles. I think this applies to adults too. With so much screen time (ether element) we can feel like we are out of sorts and experiencing a loss of grounding.
You can tend to your internal fires by taking time to light candles, especially during this Winter Solstice season. I have enjoyed using this handmade oil lamp at our dinner time as a family reminder of fire. I also enjoy lighting incense and placing it at my altars. If you have wood stoves and fire places, take time to mindfully and ritually start your fire. Don’t look at it as simply another ‘chore’, but see your ancestors starting fires at their hearth places for centuries. Keep a sacred attitude toward the nourishing warmth the fire will provide you. Cooking can also connect us to fire, especially if you have a propane stove, but electric can also work. Making a simple pot of tea can connect you to the fire element.
In addition to spending time connecting externally to flame and fire, we should cultivate the fire within. What does nourishing our internal fires look like in our own lives? It looks like commiting to rhythm and routine around our daily activities. It also ooks like a passion for life, and a joy in the simple pleasures of daily living. If we wish to create positive change in our lives, our best approach is to pick a few small areas to change, and be committed and consistent with that change, otherwise our passion for change will start out as a huge flame and then die out when we have no more fuel. It is absolutely essential to start small. If you put too much wood on a fire too soon, you are going to put it out and have cold wood. Pick just a few things to change, just as you would pick a few small pieces of kindling. Once those small pieces are going strong, you can throw on a larger log.
Tend to these simple routines first:
- Regular waking and bed times
- Regular meals of whole foods, as close as possible to their natural state, and in season
- Gratitude practice: Before bed, or anytime you can recall – reflect on three things from your day that you are grateful for. Gratitude Grows Grace.
Once those three items are fully in place, then focus on your larger kindling. These should be tended to daily, but only within 5-8 minutes to start. Remember, start small and let the fire grow form there:
- Daily Natural Movement – not just repetitive exercises, but activities that move you through your natural full range of motion.. Walking, hiking, dancing, yoga, and tai chi are a few examples of natural movement. You should find one that you enjoy. You only need eight – ten minutes a day.
- Daily Stillness – find time each day to sit quietly and be with your breath. Eight – ten minutes a day is all you need to glean the benefits.
- Nourishing intake: This means carefully choosing your media intake: tv, internet, social media, phone use, news, reading, etc… Anything you take in through your senses you are essentially ‘eating’ with your mind. Choose carefully to avoid mental indigestion.
Consider these actions steps as kindling to keep a consistent fire burning. Once they are fully in place, then you can consider larger logs to set your internal fire ablaze.
Note: The following words are the musings and opinions of a spiritual aspirant. I am a non-expert and non-scholar of Indian Philosophy and humbly offer these thoughts.
It is easy for anyone on the spiritual path to feel caught up in thinking that our current life state is due to past karma. The perception may be that we have a great deal of positive or negative karma, either way the attachment is the same. Something we did before is now affecting us, and we rest in the state of that guilt. It may very well be true that we did something awful or even wonderful in the past (current life or past lives) that is affecting our time here and now. But that line of thinking doesn’t really help one to move forward, rather can have the affect of us obsessing over the past. I find this to be a problem with the concept of karma. What happened before is done and over. What really matters is what you do now and how you react now. How can you navigate your daily life so that you reduce the affects of further accumulating karma? What thought patterns are running through your mind, and how can you bring them to a more self honoring state?
How can we honor the sacred space of self and other? How do we reduce negative effects of the ego self and strive to grow a more sattvic way of living? A beloved teacher of mine instructs that the path should consist of monitoring your thoughts, noticing what arises without guilt or blame, and honoring your daily living. The actions are so simple. Are you being mindful when you eat, with each bite? Can you notice the food as you eat it, without the mind wandering or judging? Are you being mindful with your relationships? Can you be present with someone and truly listen, without judging or imposing your thoughts and beliefs onto them? Do you need to interject with an opinion? Are you taking care of your self and making time for a sacred practice (Asana, breathwork, meditation, or any other special practice)? Do you honor your living space and home? Do you tend and care for it? Are you honoring your obligations, and if you have too many, are you able to express good boundaries and limitations on your time?
These are just a few ways that we move forward, no matter what our past ‘karma’ might have been. It is daily work, and when carefully tended to reduces the likelihood that we will accrue more karma, especially negative karma.
If in doubt, tend to the simple acts of daily life with honor and care.
Since going gray, I have received many wonderful comments from my yoga students each week in class! I certainly have a supportive network around me. Going gray was and is a very personal decision. I certainly wasn’t ready for a long time, and I will not judge another person’s decision about their own health and beauty choices. But I will say that it should be socially acceptable for a woman to not dye her hair. It was 9 1/2 months ago that I decided enough was enough. I was tired of covering up my hair with toxic chemicals every two weeks. I couldn’t keep on top of those gray roots! I tried henna, “natural dyes, ” and more — you name it, I tried it. Being conscious of my health and the environment is so important to me, and I felt that I simply wasn’t walking my talk. I said to Josh “I am done dying my hair, and it doesn’t matter to me who doesn’t like it.” I meant it, but it was still difficult at times. Those first few months were rough. Also, I did this during our big move and transition, an emotionally challenging time — so that certainly did not make it easier! But my family was so supportive, especially Josh and my girls. I am so happy I made this decision. I feel like me, and I am not hiding anything anymore. Some might think I look older. I would say to them: This is what a healthy 41-year-old woman and mother of two looks like — get used to it. We need to rethink what age means and what aging looks like. As a culture, we are not used to seeing women under 80 years old with gray hair, never mind women under 50 with gray hair! I am willing to bet that a lot of women my age are gray. Now I can’t wait for long flowing silver locks!
There are days when I think I should change the name of this website. The name fell into place as I was redesigning my former website. It wasn’t entirely intentional to name it “powerful woman yoga”. It felt catchy at the time, it resonated with feminine empowerment, and it was an english variation of my previous Sanskrit name “Shakti Yoga”- the divine feminine in yoga. Honestly, some days it feels pretentious. Who am I to claim this name? There are far more powerful and courageous women out there. Some days it just feels fake. I am a mere white woman- many would consider the classic modern day yogi- a nearing middle- or perhaps fully middle age- white woman who can touch her toes and show off some fancy poses, who sometimes wears flashy looking yoga pants. So for that reason the very existence of it all feels wrong and insulting.
There are more powerful women out there. There are women who are bold activists in equality, in racial harmony, and in fighting for our earth’s health. There are women who have stood up in abusive relationships and faced deep addictions, women who balance work and family as a single mother, women who fight institutionalized racism, and women who fight for Indigenous rights. I am none of those women.
Some people are disturbed with what I do, teaching yoga and leading Kirtan as a caucasian non-Indian, trained by another middle aged caucasian woman. I have had others tell me it isn’t right, that perhaps I have no place. Maybe my pronunciation isn’t quite right, or I take too many creative liberties to the traditions. Perhaps they are right. In fact, they are right. If I offend, I apologize. That is never my intention. I will try harder to be kinder and to understand.
I have considered changing paths entirely, finding a new destiny. Maybe yoga isn’t for me. Maybe Kirtan isn’t for me. Perhaps there are too many rules to break, too many people to upset and offend by doing what I do, and maybe getting a “real job” with a steady paycheck would be a better path. Maybe it is wrong to consider teaching yoga my “job” anyway. Maybe folks are right, that this isn’t what I should be doing. The name is wrong and there isn’t anything powerful in what I do or who I am.
I recently read an article on race and hate and the opening lines discussed how the author felt her approach to the topic wasn’t the most perfect way to approach an issue, that the author was likely to be making all sorts of mistakes, and she might even change her mind later. But she still felt compelled to move forward with it. Starting the conversation seemed important, even if it wasn’t completely correct and others needed to help her see more clearly. Something clicked in my mind as I read those words. Yes, there are doubts along the path. Yes there are naysayers, and yes they may very well be correct. But somehow here I am, and I am treading a path. I feel better taking some sort of step, some sort of direction than to fear doing it wrong and to never take a step at all.
So here are my true confessions: I am fully flawed. As much as I try not to offend other cultures and races, I acknowledge that I do with frequency. Even simply running this site and teaching yoga and chanting as I do offends others, specifically Indians and Hindus. I am aware of this. It hurts. Sometimes those conversations make me quite upset. I loose my temper. I sometimes react unreasonably. I get jealous. I try to justify my actions. Some days, I don’t feel powerful at all and am not interested in taking a stand. But somehow, I move forward with all of my flaws and the hope to do better and to make amends.
So for now the name will stay, if not for the mere logistics in the difficulty of changing the name at this point. But also because it causes conflict. It makes me consider what it really means, because it isn’t perfect, and it very well may not be “right”. I take another step and try to do better, knowing more errors are likely to be made, but not being afraid of the errors. I realize they are the doorways and the opportunities to grow and improve. They are the opportunities to make amends. The errors are the work that is needed to be done, to open the door to those difficult conversations and sensations. We shall see where it takes us.
There will be free yoga classes, food, and a joyous Kirtan! Classes will start at 8 AM and Kirtan is at 12:15. See our full schedule below. Stop by just to say hi and see the space, stay for a class, or stay all day!
Location: 1383 Route 44, Brownsville, VT.
If you are driving from the Springfield/Woodstock direction, it is the large green house on your right immediately before the Post Office.
If you are driving from the Ascutney/Windsor/Hartland direction, it is the large green house on your left immediately after the Post Office.
Feel free to bring food (veggie or vegan please) to share at the event.
This is a FREE EVENT, but we will have a donation bowl for anyone that would like to help support us in the expenses of the renovation of the space.
Please note: PARKING DETAILS*** UPDATED***
We are permitted to have eight cars parked in the drive. For this event, the town recognizes we may go over this amount. Please do not park in our neighbors’ driveways or block their ability to get in and out of the drives. Please watch for parking signs. You may park on the highway across the street from our drive (just past the bridge) but do be mindful of the property on that side of the road.
We have the ok to park at the post office next door. Park behind the building only during the open hours (until 12:30) on the pavement only. The leach for the building is on the grass behind the post office building- do not park on the grass behind the post office. Do be sure to leave the egress clear. There are two spaces on the grass near the open field.
You can also park at the town office building and walk over, it is less than a mile walk. It is the pretty brick building in the middle of town with the flowers out front.
As always, Josh will be around to help with parking. Thank you, sweetie! ♥
We encourage CARPOOLING! We don’t have a student/person limit, only a car limit!
There is a park and ride at exit 7 in Windsor, and at exit 8 in Ascutney. You can also use the trail head parking on Mt. Ascutney as a park and ride to carpool part way from the Windsor Trail head or the Brownsville Trailhead parking located on Routes 44 and 44A. The trailheads are closer to our houses than the park and rides. Meet a buddy at the trailhead and then drive over, we are only a few miles from those trailheads!
Other parking options include parking at the town offices or at the Albert Bridge school in town and then walk over to our studio. To park in town and walk over is just under a mile. Brownsville is a very beautiful Vermont town to walk through!
Doors open at 7:45 – food and mingling
8:00-8:55 – Mixed Level Hatha Flow with Angie
9:10-10:10 – Gentle Flow with Angie
10:20-11:20 – Gentle Hatha with Charleigh
11:30-12:15 – Food and mingling!
12:15-1:15 – Kirtan with Pure Kirtan – Angie, Josh, and friends!
Doors close at 2
You don’t have to be in a class to see the space and visit with us! Stop by, even if for just a few minutes!
Let us know if you have any questions!
Email Angie at email@example.com. We hope to see you there!
A New Home
Josh and I are excited to announce that we have a new home. Not just a home for our family, but for our yoga, music, and art pursuits as well. We purchased our new home and studio almost 4 weeks ago, on July 17. We have been busy little worker bees cleaning, painting, and unpacking our home and studios. If you follow Josh or me on social media, you have seen the intense amount of work we have been doing to get our home and studio spaces up and running. Luckily, Josh has the summer off and I have been on a semi-teaching sabbatical. We have had time to work on cultivating our new spaces before Josh returns to school.
I apologize for being so quiet all these weeks and months! I tend to be single-minded in my focus, and all my energy has gone into preparing our home spaces! I have a strong nesting quality to my personality. It was very challenging for me to not be in my own home for so many months, so when we finally landed in a new home the flood gates opened and all my energy came rushing out to create a new home. I am exhausted and excited at all this new space and our beautiful surroundings in picturesque Brownsville, VT. Our home sits at the base of the western side of Mt. Ascutney. Hiking trails are literally in our backyard. The property sits at the junction of two bodies of water, a sacred location in Indian philosophy! We really couldn’t be happier.
MARK SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9 ON YOUR CALENDARS!!!
Everyone keeps asking us: “When will you open your classes again!” Josh and I are working as fast as we can to set it all up. The spaces are 99% finished and ready for classes — we could start teaching tomorrow! But we need to clear the town zoning and state permits. We hope to be ready for an open studio celebration in September. We have a goal of Saturday, September 9 for our ‘Grand Opening Extravaganza’ with free classes, food, music, and free pass giveaways. We will also have a free week of classes leading up to or after the grand opening (depending on how soon we can clear the local permits depends on these exact dates). So please watch for future announcements on these exciting events!
A New Name
With our new home and studios, Josh and I decided to start a new business venture. Because our homes have always included our independent artistic/creative pursuits, we decided to name them and start a new business venture. We are introducing Jai Studios LLC, a yoga, music, art and wellness studio center. Josh and I finally have all the studio space of our dreams, plenty of space not just for yoga, but also for our music and artistic pursuits. This home means so much to us and we wanted to celebrate our ‘victory’ in finally having the space of our dreams! Jai means ‘victory’ in sanskrit and is an expression of great joy and celebration, so it seemed a fitting name.
We hope you will join us for our grand opening celebration, and for the many wonderful events we will host in this beautiful new space. You can see pictures of our labor intensive process below. Thank you so much for your support all these years and we look forward to continuing the journey with you in the years to come in this fabulous new space!
Angie and Josh