Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Knights Templar of Tomar

From our quiet sojourn in the Portuguese country-side, we began to gather ourselves. I had booked two nights in Fatima in honor of the Centennial sighting. More on that to come.

As we consulted the map, we saw that as we were in the northwest mountains of Portugal heading southwest towards Fatima, we would pass through Tomar. Kevin petitioned for a stop. This, after all, is home of the Knights Templar. 

A castle wall surrounds the Convent of Christ, the Knights Templar home built in the early 12th century. 

Every inch of the Convent of Christ has mystical symbolism. Esoteric symbols intermix with Christianity. Rooms were circular, well protected, and basically every guy's wet dream.

Kevin kept looking in the forests outside of the castle walls. Apparently that's where really super secret weird rites went down.

The Templar Knights were ultimately banned but their burial site remains in view of the Convent of Christ. Kevin and I drove down away from the church fortress on the hill through the beautiful town of Tomar to Igreja do Maria do Olivais. Kevin got super excited finding the circular rose window above the entry. Standing with your back to the church, you have a clear view of the Convent of Christ high on the hill ahead.

This church was perhaps the most fascinating in all of Portugal. Entering, above the altar a window with a pentagram surrounded by interlocking circles. So much esoteric symbolism! No cross! As I walked down the steps I saw flyers advertising normal church events for the community. This church, more than any other we visited, seemed most in use and loved by its community. The Virgin Mary was centered below as a point of worship with Jesus off to her left. To the right of the church and all along the side were small tombs containing the remains of the 12th century Knights Templar. This church felt like the quiet, breathing home of the strange, esoteric protectors of medieval treasure.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Guarda: Portugal's staring contest with Spain

We woke in a sagging bed facing a stone framed window over the Portuguese hills. The sheep bells clanged as the animals marched around the property. A few cats climbed the window ledges.

I thought about home and how easy it is to get a cup of coffee. How many cafes I can drive to. And saw the cost of that convenience.

It was quiet and still.

We ultimately did decide to venture out. We got back on the highway continuing towards the Spanish border to the medieval outpost of Guarda. 

This imposing cathedral faces the Spanish border, an architectural "come at me!" 

There's a theater in town, shops, and restaurants, but it's small. This is a bit of the last frontier in cooler, mountainous Portugal.

This beautiful old church, like so many in Portugal, had spaces for anchorites, or Catholic renunciates. These spiritual seekers were built into solitary cells in the church. Sometimes they could view the regular church services and sometimes not. Food was delivered to them like they were a death row inmate in modern day prisons. 

The larger communities recognized that these people might be more able to hear spirit and would sometimes come to their windows and ask for counsel.

The church was filled with spaces that whispered secrets-- passageways for clandestine purposes, ways to renounce the world, guarded treasures hidden from sight.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Story Telling for Yoga Teachers!


I lulled myself to sleep as a child by telling myself chapter after chapter of self-created epic tales. As a teenager, I went with my high school to a story telling festival in Johnson City, TN. We sat on hay bales and heard tall tales. I found out my grandmother had gone to college in the same town where I was currently flirting with a boy who had recently left stints with both Shakers and Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

I love stories.

Yoga classes become alive for me when I feel mythology, archetype, and story in my body. I've loved yoga classes where teachers taught me through movement as well inspiration. This is one of my favorite aspects of teaching. A yoga class can be exercise-- there's nothing wrong with that. It can also be an event, a happening, an atmosphere co-created.

Last year, I took a workshop on story telling to test run some of my own ideas on the art form. Feeling solid in my approach, I offered a workshop at Yogawood on the topic. It was really fun! The topic lends itself well to an online approach so I have now adapted this to an online course! It's on sale until Christmas Day. I've created supplemental material available on my podcast!

You can take this course whenever. The content will meet you independently! You can find the support material clearly linked. Buy here!

Artist Katie Chappell had begun creating some images for me for another project. They became perfect fodder and accompaniment for this online course! Enjoy the whimsy and imaginative illustrations while you clear your creative voice.

This course is specifically designed for yoga teachers but accessible for anyone who wants to limber up their own imagination, access their own inspiration, and get more comfortable creating. 

This course is a great gift for the yoga teacher in your life! Please spread the word, get out there and inspire!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Want to take class with me? Download my podcast!

I'm a big believer in trusting your own inspiration. It often takes you down unexpected paths.

When I developed my online course I tested it with some trusted friends. One piece of feedback I received was to create supplementary material like examples of myself doing what I'm teaching in the course. I tried to figure out how I could do that best. Would I film myself and upload it on YouTube? There's definitely a lot of yoga teaching on YouTube, which can be great. Filming, getting a good, quiet location, appropriate lighting, and quality is an undertaking. I knew that I wanted to create and refine as I go. Filming seemed like a bigger task than I was up to for now.

I love podcasts and love learning through audio. I already had the equipment needed to create audio content. I began researching how to create a podcast... and it's an undertaking. But one that felt more accessible than creating content that's both audio and visual. Podcasts also seemed to open up more interesting pathways.

After massive research, I have now created a podcast on iTunes! Podcasts need a web home to create an RSS so after more research and friend feedback, I've created my podcast home on SquareSpace. I am feeling SO tech-savvy for once! I'm SEO-optimizing, creating RSS feeds, and all sorts of other stuff that I only vaguely understand!

The plan is to post a podcast of a class monthly. I may also post little teaching samples mainly geared towards other yoga teachers who are taking my online courses and looking for supplemental material. I'm toying with broadening this-- interviews and conversation may come.

I think the classes will really serve those of you who don't live near a yoga studio or when you're traveling and busy. I hope they help you keep your practice near and dear. These podcast classes are not designed for new students learning yoga. Those of you: please come to class! I'll teach you! The podcasts are for people with yoga experience who want to practice. I hope it serves.

Do you have other ideas of other ways you'd like me to use the podcast? Requests for the classes? People you want me to talk with? Email me! I'm about the collaborative life!

In the meantime, please subscribe to my podcast on iTunes and if you're so inclined, please give it a good rating and review on iTunes so it becomes more easily searchable to other listeners! Thank you and Jai!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Quinta on the Roman Road

As much as I love humans, I really love solitude.

I am an introvert. Meaning, I get my energy from time by myself, when I can hear myself think, know what I feel, feel it all fully, and let myself slow into presence.

I'm working on keeping that integration in good company but it's something I have to really pay attention to. It's a retraining of sorts and kinda wears me out.

So. I run away sometimes.

Take a breath.

I had heard about a lot of various country hovels in Portugal. My introvert ears perked. I love hiding in mountains.

With the momentum of the retreat, I had sort of dropped the ball on travel planning a rural stint while in Portugal. The wifi was a bit unpredictable and I had a hard time connecting with a couple of leads I had found prior to travel. Ultimately, I found a Quinta, or a little medieval villa, somewhere in the countryside. It looked to be maybe 3 hours east from Porto, near the Spanish border.

We went for it.

As we got deeper into the Portuguese mountains-- more accurately steppes?-- wifi got less predictable. Ultimately, our GPS threw in the towel, which was great. We were winding our way on highway switchbacks and had no idea where we were going. The further you move from Portuguese cities the less English you hear spoken too. And DO NOT try to speak Spanish. They totally speak Spanish. But not with you. English. Thanks.

We pulled off. I readied myself for some solid charades at a gas station. I wrote stuff down. I drew maps. The amused country folks around me drank their beers, midday, at a gas station. Because, Portugal. When you pull off to get gas why not drink a beer or glass of wine?

Finally, I wrote down the name of the Quinta. Um. Everyone totally knew it. There were no labelled ROADS around there but they knew the names of estates.

They tried to give me directions, which was also awesome. They wanted to give me landmarks, like, over the hill, follow the river, when we didn't share a common language and I'm a very street sign oriented person. But you know. For my way that would mean there would have to be labelled roads and street signs.

Somehow, it worked! Further up the highway there was even a sign for our sweet little Quinta!

Dogs barked and chased our Algarve-dusted car. As we emerged from the car we smelled rosemary and the heavy sweetness of conchords overhead. A sweet older Portuguese woman emerged who happily spoke Spanish with me! I think she may have originally been from over the border!

She escorted us into our suite near her own living quarters. As we settled into the stone nooks and crannies of the Quinta, she rolled in a cart with cookies and port wine.

She told us there is nothing around here. You could see the valley through the window. A sprinkling of houses and a river. Farm estates between. I asked her where to go to breakfast. She shrugged and suggested we buy some rolls to tide us over. Or drive the half hour into Guarda. We asked her if anywhere served vegetarian meals for dinner. She looked nervous but said an estate down by the river might. 

It's a good adventure.

We went back in time.

It got very still.

Something about sitting on a stone sill and watching the sheep go by. Nothing feels quite so important.

We read awhile. We shifted to slower, softer paced books.

Expectations lowered. A walk would be good.

Our host urged us to follow the old Roman road. Kevin was PSYCHED. As we set out, one of the dogs named Honey, accompanied us. Every now and then she would dart away and we thought she'd find her way home. Nope. She was a kind host and stayed with us every step of the journey.

Kevin tried to recall the purpose behind these old Roman roads. His understanding was that they guided merchants and troops so that navigation was unnecessary. Also, wheels could move faster over the cobblestones. 

For us, it helped us not get lost. Down the hill to the river. Up the hill back to the Quinta. 

The river felt like a sanctuary. We dipped in and said thanks for allowing us to be here. The trees arched over quietly.


I've been so grateful to work with some awesome folks to make my services visible! Lauren Lopez crafted my first logo and website a few years ago. She's amazing. She and I have worked together in many capacities and I highly recommend her!

The logo she created and that I've used is:
As a lot of time has passed and my work vision is shifting and clarifying, it was time for an update! I really didn't know what I was after... I had a feeling but not a concept. A friend suggested I try 99designs so I could get an array of ideas to chose from. I started a contest on the website. At first, I got a LOT of lotus flowers and gentle women sitting cross-legged.


As I responded, the designs changed. I logged in one evening and caught my breath. A designer had submitted a venn diagram, the right sphere lifting slightly like it was launching out to space. In the overlap space there was a silhouette.


That concept. I teach venn diagrams ALL THE TIME. What does this yogic myth teach us about our own lives? What does Fado music teach us about bhakti? What is the space between? How do we see ourselves when we're thrown into shadow, against light?

The design felt like it actually communicated my work.

And it didn't feel like anything else-- meaning, it didn't feel trendy, or like a fad, or predictable. It actually felt connected to what I do.

I started working with the designer on refining. I began googling cameos and getting excited about their history, about the subjects sitting against light for their profile to emerge. Seeing oneself in the contrast. I offered suggestions and the profile shifted slightly. We added gradiant color. The type was edited.

Slowly, it came to life.

I eagerly awarded this design and the designer the contest award. And here it is. My new logo!

Once the logo was in place my new website came together effortlessly. I've tried to take on more of this upkeep myself so I did my website design on wix! It's been really fun to figure out how to effectively organize the information. I'll be able to maintain this myself easily.

As I've pulled all of this together I feel fresh life being breathed into my work. I have a lot of ideas about what's to come: more writing, more online classes, a podcast, more teaching, and collaboration. I'm glad to have a home to share what I'm up to!

In the spirit of breathing life into life, I'm offering my first online course at a discount. I built this course over the span of many months, tested it with trusted sources, commissioned fantastic art work from Katie Chappell and am so glad to share it with you! This is a $60 class that I'm offering at a discount until Christmas! Please purchase NOW at the $40 rate and tell me where the inspiration takes you!

To creating!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Two nights in Porto

After exchanging big happy hugs with the attendees of the Longing Retreat in the Algarve, Kevin and I loaded in our dusty rental car. (Everything in the Algarve is dusty. Beautiful and dusty. Thankfully the rental car warned us and said as long as the inside of the car was clean we're good!) Kevin and I had been thinking through what to do after the retreat. We loved the Algarve and somehow had managed to see most of it in the week! We could certainly spend endless time in southern Portugal but we found ourselves curious to see more of the country.

We decided to basically drive the whole thing.

We set north for one of the northern-most coastal cities, Porto. It took about 7 hours to drive up there from Carrapateira. As we told people our destination they were aghast! What a journey! We're like... we're from the US. We drive these kind of distances all the time.

The Portuguese generally do not.

Having spent about four (magnificent!) days in Lisbon prior to the retreat, we decided to skip a stop in Lisbon on our way back north. Instead, we opted for Coimbra for a lunch break.

The hilly, sober city of Coimbra is only about an hour and a half north of Lisbon but it's totally the anal, high achieving older sibling. Coimbra is the intellectual capital of Portugal and home of its oldest university. In Lisbon, Fado is working class music sung mournfully by both men and women, and exuberant applause is expected from the enraptured audience. In Coimbra, only men sing Fado. Traditionally, celibate male students sang doleful Fado beneath women's balconies. As such, to this day applause is uncommon. Instead, polite coughing acknowledges the music.

Coimbra is intellectual, repressed, and super weird.

Students still wear robes, which inspired JK Rowling who wrote Harry Potter in this city. Coimbra is Hogwarts.

Kevin was obviously ready to enroll in a course in medieval studies, given he could basically live quasi-medieval. I urged us back onto the road.

We arrived in Porto around rush hour. Kevin navigated the traffic and a European stick with aplomb to get us to our little airbnb flat in tact.

After settling in and making out with a big fluffy cat, we headed down to the river.

Porto is fun! From the banks of the river the city sweeps up two steep cliffs. Porto felt more British than other parts of the country. This could have been in part due to the noticeably cooler climate 7 hours north of the hot and dry Algarve. I think it's also simple British influence as Brits have long come down to Porto to enjoy Port.

Along the river banks, tables were set up by big heaters, musicians played music, and magicians entertained. Big, whole fish were served up after appetizers of olives and crusty bread. Barrels of port and olives were hidden in the stone caves along the river banks.

We wandered through the cool night before returning back to the amorous cat at our flat. We slept long and well before venturing out again. We went back to the fun river banks and climbed higher into the sleepy city. Portugal does not do mornings. In the mornings, most Portuguese seem to want only coffee and quiet. It took some searching but we found a little cafe that would prepare eggs. Everyone else in the cafe was British. Go figure.

We climbed the steep cobblestone streets finding tons of art, cafes, bookstores, and of course, churches. The city definitely has a distinct personality from its southern neighbor, Lisbon. Maybe something like Lisbon is San Francisco to Porto being Seattle. The more northern city being less obvious but very cool in an underground way.


We loved it.