I am in Rishikesh, India, a place of pilgrimage for those who wish to bathe in the Ganges–something millions of Hindus aim to do at some point in their life, in order to fulfill a purification ritual that cleanses the soul from the effects of past karma.  Visiting the Ganges has been an aspiration of mine ever since I read the life-story of Thomas Merton when I was 18 years old.  Coming here has been a feeling of ‘coming home to myself.”

bh 2 ganges (1)

Before I left for India, I contacted Saraswathi Devi, who runs Prana Yoga Ashram in Berkeley, California.  We both studied with Swami Vignanananda, who was told by his teacher, Swami Sivananda to “Take Yoga to the West!” . . . and so he did! . . . Establishing ashrams in Japan, Europe, Berkeley, Grass Valley, and other locations in North America from the 1950’s until his death in 2008.

Saraswathi told me that of Swami-ji’s contemporaries, Swami Hamsananda, is still alive and lives here in Rishikesh at the Sivananda Divine Life Ashram, where he teaches Sanskrit.  My partner, Harold, and I stopped in to pass on regards from Saraswathi, and now Swami Hamsananda has taken us under his wing.

Hamsananda smiling + bh (1)Hamsananda having tea

In addition to making arrangements for me to study pranayama with Swami Swarupananda (more on that next week), Swami Hamsananda has invited me to participate in a fire ceremony at the Ganges.

What a gift to join in ritual and receive the blessings of this very sacred land with everyone chanting prayers.

Traveling vs. Vacationing… Friction vs. Flow…

Last week, in the Comments section of my Blog, Robin (whom you can meet on his website) made a comment about ‘travel’ vs. vacations which has been with me since.  Robin said:

“Traveling vs Vacationing is a way for me to reconnect and reset my perception and awareness of what’s important in life so that I can incorporate it more into my daily “routine.” Reconnecting to the beauty of life, even when challenges are present helps me remember how much we are the same, the same hopes, fears, emotions and the goodness that is us.”

When I travel I remember even more acutely that Life is a journey full of mysteries and surprises.  Somehow, being ‘on the road’ takes me into innocence and receptivity.  Everything is new…my senses open to new sights, sounds, customs and cultures.  My mind opens too.

BH and Bull

I am in India now, by the Ganges River in Rishikesh.  Just getting from Delhi airport to Rishikesh was a journey.  What looked like a 3-4 hour car ride took 9 hours–our unexpected flat tire not-with-standing, plus a nice dinner break–most of the delay was due to traffic!

Driving in India is fluid….our Driver was some kind of Super-conscious traffic yogi who made streaming in and out of lanes look easy.

Logger jams of traffic bottleneck, then release amidst swerving motorbikes neck and neck with buses, Tuk-Tuks (3-wheeled vehicles), bicyclists and pedestrians, cows and dogs.  There is a flow to it all.  A distinctly non-Western sense of rhythm and order that opens space for paradox.  A coexistence among complementary elements, that don’t seem to compete with each other for dominance, but rather maintain close proximity to each other with a strong and unique sense of relationship, as cars and vehicles move in and out of lanes, passing each other, yielding to each other, honking a warning that someone is changing lanes, or driving down the middle between lanes till someone shifts, and space opens…  It all seems to work.

I have not seen any accidents, and our driver was completely at ease, as he slid in and out of tiny spaces and openings between other moving vehicles which allowed him entry, and vice versa.

I think we have something to learn here.  I wonder, what would it take to convert road rage to ease and flow?

Reflections. . . Life during the Kali Yuga

It has been just over a week since a bomb exploded at the Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok, which killed 20 people and wounded many others.  The following day another bomb was thrown at a busy river pier, but thankfully fell into the canal causing no injuries and little harm.  I deeply respect the Thai official’s honest acknowledgement about what is and is not known, together with their consistent, calm pursuit of the truth, a steady search for the culprit, the loving re-dedication of the Shrine, and compassionate honoring of those lost and injured (instead of sensationalizing the event.)


Most times when I have traveled I seem to have experienced a taste of contemporary life . . . from landing in Heathrow in 2001 only to discover that Mad-Cow disease was infecting UK livestock; to being caught in a typhoon in Manila in 2002; to traveling to Toronto during the SARS epidemic in the summer of 2003 when a couple of days after we landed, the city was hit by the three-day long Northeast power outage, which stretched from Ontario, through New York and down to Ohio.  Oh, yes, and there was the time I happened to have a board meeting in Mexico during the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009.

These serendipitous events do not include my volunteer work as a trauma recovery trainer—traveling in 2005 and 2006 to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami; nor does it include joining journalist Susan McClelland on a research trip to post civil war Sierra Leon in 2008; or work in Haiti 2010 and 2011 after the earthquake.

During my early 20’s I realized that taking a vacation to visit family did not mean I could ‘vacate’.  What I discovered then is that it is more important to stay present and ‘witness’ what is happening around you, and within you.  Witnessing includes keeping your wits about you—staying aware and as conscious as possible.  Then, taking a holiday may become a series of ‘holy-days’ which are made even more sacred by seeking and appreciating the gifts and learning that Life brings forward each day—no matter where we find ourselves.

Tell me, do you take Holidays or Holy-days — do you go on Vacations to Vacate or return to a state of Presence?

I wish us all Safe Travels

Bangkok August 17th . . . In the Face of Destruction, there is a Deeper Truth

As many of you know I am traveling right now, and as some of you know I am in Bangkok.

My friend sent me a note via Facebook on Monday, asking, “Are you ok, were you anywhere near the bomb blast?”  My friend’s comment was the first that I had heard about the bomb blast at the popular Hindu Erawan Shrine to Brahma, in Central Bangkok yesterday (August 17th).

4 faced brahma Thai_4_Buddies

At the time of the blast my husband and I were on our way to dinner about half a kilometer away.  My husband remembers seeing a flash of light down the street as we entered the up-scale mall at Central Chitlom.  The flash lasted only an instant … with all the lights and marketing gimmicks going on in Bangkok, the flash was no surprise to the people around us.  They (and we) all went on with walking and talking, when only moments later there was a huge loud bang.  Harold did not connect the flash and the sound as related.  As for me—not knowing what Bangkok sounds like, the blast was just part of the ambient sounds of a huge ‘over-populated’ city.

An hour later (after dinner) we took the sky train home and had a bird’s eye view from the Chitlom sky train platform.  I notice that the already over-busy traffic intersection of Phloen Chit Road west of Langsuan Road was jammed with the flashing blue and red lights of police cars.

We are quite safe and sound where we are, and I am not worried.  As for my experience here and now in Bangkok . . . I am feeling ‘safe’, although there is speculation that tourists are being targeted.

I find it interesting that in November of 2012, when I was outside Canada teaching Sacred Sexuality with ISTSA in Israel, a war broke out between Gaza and Israel the day before I left Canada. (A cease-fire was called 5 days after my arrival.)  Then too I felt ‘safe’.

I am more and more convinced that ‘safety’ is an internal state as well as an external reality.  In reality Bangkok is a very peaceful and welcoming city.  The people of Thailand are mainly Buddhist—truly kind and obviously compassionate—and the horror of violence and unexpected loss of lives in this recent bomb blast is not a reflection of the whole city (nor of the country) any more than is the experience of violence in large cities in every country (whether due to family violence, bullying, corruption and crime, social conflict, political factions and social unrest).

Risk verses Safety is more the landscape that comes with living in a world full of radical discontinuity and accelerated change.  And from my experience in traveling, these kinds of incidents allow us to come together in ways that, in the long-term, bring greater clarity, awareness and ultimately, understanding.

Please, send prayers to those who are discontent, worried, injured–and for those 22 souls who died, and their family and friends who are shocked and grieving, please send prayers to them as well.

Share the Journey

As some of you know, I will be traveling throughout most of August and September.  While on the road, I will keep in touch with you through my blog, and through posts on Facebook and Twitter.


I plan to share with you some of my experiences from my travels, along with thoughts that hold energy for me, and events that I know are important.

I also invite you to share your thoughts and experiences around Embodied Awareness.

I invite you to share your encounters from your own journey – no matter where you are and no matter what you are discovering.  

We are all part of this current time and space, so let us all enjoy this voyage together.

… Bon Voyage!

Our Reaction to Change

So why do we react to change the way we do?

Our reactions to change indicate the youth of our evolutionary process.  Our first reaction – fight, flight, freeze, faint comes as an instinctive animal response to change.


Fight-flight-freeze-faint is actually a reptilian response – an automatic brain stem reaction formed hundreds of millions of years ago.  Our reptilian brainstem’s immediate sensory-motor reaction is responsible for instinctive drives like hunger, sex, territoriality, and ritualistic behavior.  The reptile in us wants to predict what is going to happen next to create a sense of safety – even if it is false safety – because, after all, our world is constantly changing.  Our emotional, mammalian limbic-brain showed up after the dinosaurs with the evolution of warm-blooded mammals that care for their young.  Our mammalian brain gives us a tend-and-befriend reaction to stress.  We find safety in numbers and we seek help from those who soothe and support us. It is the mammal in us that is also responsible for our emotional-cognitive brain’s and value-judgments.

Ultimately, our human capacity to be conscious of change (aware of past-present-and future) is thanks to the development of a ‘new mammalian brain,’ called the cortex.  Finally, our pre-frontal cortex, which is a mere 40,000 years old and still evolving, is providing us with greater and greater insight and understanding about Life’s Mysteries as we make meaning out of the changes we go through.

The question is how do we begin, each of us individually, to love and tame the younger parts of us… the cold-blooded animal within us-the snake, the turtle, crocodile or lizard, mad-dog, chimpanzee, or human? This takes another brain entirely – our heart-brain.  The wisdom of the heart-brain energetically and telepathically emits acceptance and love, embraces us with compassion and provides us with the courage to become humane beings.

I invite you to engage in this exercise:

First begin to tame your automatic reactions in yourself by having compassion for “you” and for the reality that when faced with change, you will most likely automatically react (fight, flight, freeze or faint).

Next, after you realize you have reacted, begin to be “present” with yourself in a soothing, healing way, to calm your physiological reaction (tend-and-befriend).


Consciously tense and relax the muscles.  Shake your body to let the energy release. (gain insight and understanding)

Then talk to yourself in a calming, soothing inner voice (instead of using a harsh, critical or punishing tone). Embrace your human-ness with compassion and acceptance.

This is one way we are able to tame our younger-selves.  This is part of the mystery that we are facing right now in our world, worldwide.

This Change that We Go Through

In my last blog I shared with you the dream I had about the Mystery of Change.  The mystery of change is also the mystery of evolution.  And, how we embody not only physical evolutionary change, but also the shifts and changes that awaken our consciousness.

We are spiritual beings housed in physical bodies.


Mystery teachings around the world suggest that in this process, spiritual experience moves from subtle energetic states of being into more and more dense forms of experience.  Spiritual energy is perceived through our intuition.  As the energy becomes more dense it takes the form of thoughts.  Thoughts are also reflections of emotional feelings, and the most dense form is physical experience and physical, material reality.  We are young in discovering how to be conscious in each of these worlds of experience.

Coming into physical form brings with it a focus on the material world.  In the process, we forget less subtle realities.  A forgetting of where we come from and who we are.  We experience this as a ‘separation’ from Spiritual realities.  The experience of separation from spirit brings with it emotional pain (in emotional worlds) along with a distortion in one’s thinking (in the mental world).  Life is not only about “forgetting”.  Life in physical form is about remembering.  Reflecting and remembering what this divine mission is – We are born to awaken to our true nature – to embody one’s essential spiritual nature while living in a human body.  We are evolving in to becoming humane beings, not just human animals living in a physical body.

I’m curious  –

  • How do you experience the mystery of change?
  • What are your reflections on our evolutionary process?
  • In what ways are you conscious of your physical reality as a reflection of your spiritual reality?
  • How are you experiencing your evolution of becoming a more humane being?

Life is Change. That is the Mystery

I had a dream the other night… In my dream I was teaching about the Great Mysteries in a retreat setting, facilitating a workshop with all of my mentors, and we had a group of around 40 participants.  In the morning session of the first day, one fellow shared a dream he had.  In his dream, he kept changing into different animals—first he was a fish, then he became a lizard, then he became a bird, then he became a panther.

I asked him to act out each of these changes, noting his movements as he transitioned from one animal to the next—how he morphed from one form to the next.  And then I asked each person in the class to move and mirror these changes to him, to morph and change into each of the animals.

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This brought forward a teaching—a teaching of how life is change.  The key to the Great Mystery is about responding to change—that we change, and how we change, and what creates change.  We tend to respond to the mystery of change with “uncertainty” —an existential crisis that creates doubt, helplessness and fear.  Mystery itself is without fear; rather entering into the mystery inspires awe.

What would be different if we responded to uncertainties in our lives with a sense of great Mystery and Awe?


It’s summertime where I live.

In Calgary – the place I call my home – we have four seasons.  And, although, I am sometimes challenged by the extremes of this climate—like long dark winters and summer sunsets at 10:30 PM—the seasons as I experience them at 51 degrees northern latitude offers important learning. . . I appreciate that they remind me of how our lives are made up of seasons as well.  Spring, summer, autumn and winter are the continuous cycles of death and renewal that I experience here, in my small corner of Mother Earth.

8355132495_cf13e724e7_b four seasons in one photo

Each one of us has a different natural rhythm that distinguishes our personal growth cycles over the course of a year.  Each one of us, no matter where we live, experiences seasons, and has a time to dream, to plan, to produce, to play, to rest, and even to worry.

Do you know what Season you are in?

Are you able to recognize your personal growth cycle?

How does each of your Seasons make you feel, and make you act?


My mother died a year ago.  This last week, on July 2nd my brother and I made the sojourn to her grave.  This was the anniversary of her burial.  It also happens to be the day she was born into this world in Philadelphia, on July 2, 1929.  While at the cemetery, after talking to our mother, we also visited with her mother and my father, as well as my father’s parents and grandparents.

Honoring ancestors is part of the Jewish tradition—the tradition I was born into in this life-time.  As my mom began to decline in health, and ultimately release herself from this world, I witnessed ancestral patterns play out; confirming what I have known since childhood: like rivers flowing to the sea, every relationship finds its own level.  Some may be strong and deep.  Some may be white water rapids.  Or shallow streams.  Stagnant pools.  Or fresh artesian springs that quench our thirst.


Being related by blood does not automatically award a sense of ‘belonging’, friendship or camaraderie.  These qualities come from within one’s heart; and we recognize the truth of our bonds with another as we experience a resonant bond of love that is shared (or not).

Ultimately all bonds, including the limits we experience in relationships, are expressions of love; and sometimes the best way to express love is to allow for distance.  That being said, I accept the limits of my relationships with each member in my blood-line, both in our immediate family—my siblings, my parents’ siblings (my aunts and uncles)—and all their offspring, and beyond into the ever expanding circle of cousins, kith and kin.

My family has been the family of humanity for some time, and the four winds and trees my sisters and brothers.  When we expand our relationships to all our relations, to all of Life, we discover that there is a place for each of us—wherever we are, and however we are, just as we are—each growing and evolving into whatever it is that Life has in mind for us . . . which often means letting go of what and how we believe Life should be.

On the other side of mourning—as we continue letting go into the experience of death—all that remains is the love; love that was, is, and continues to be shared, into eternity.