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Truth & Unity: Lessons from Yoga & Travel

Yoga is the tool I use to clarify who I really am. Illusion, delusion and in-authenticity melt away in the fiery physical, mental and spiritual work, and I am left with an honest expression of myself. With continued practice, I cultivate sensitivity around this honesty and find contentment in who I really am. Living yoga unifies the seemingly fragmented pieces of myself, such as mind and body, which soothes cognitive turmoil about who I am and who I want to be. I welcome these realizations because as difficult, constant and often painful self-realization work may be, it leaves me cleansed, whole and vibrant.

Living yoga may have its painful aspects – it is painful to vulnerably admit that an idea or belief we hold is not true. Whether it be damaging self-talk, delusions about ourselves, or external stories we’ve woven into the fabric of our lives, living yoga uncovers these falsehoods. For me, it is not always easy or painless to admit I was wrong and need to work harder at staying in alignment with my passions and purpose.

Travel is the tool I use to uncover the truth about the world and my relationship with others. Prejudices, falsehoods and cultural stereotypes dissolve in the authentic experience of mindful travel. Adventurous travel challenges me to open-up to new experiences with equanimity and endless occasions to expand my boundaries.

Just as yoga has the potential to uncover truth and unify our inner world, travel has the potential to uncover truth about humanity and unify us with the rest of the world.

I believe that travel is more important now than ever to connect with people, cultures and stories. Just as yoga can be a tool to uncover truth and unify ourselves, travel is vital for challenging unquestioned beliefs and shattering the lines of separation between us and the world. If we can be vulnerable, step outside of our comfort zones and connect with people, we open ourselves up to expand our preconceptions and will experience a deeper connection with humanity. Suddenly, the folks that seemed so different on TV are right in front of us – there are no screens or walls to separate us from them – and our assumptions or prejudices are directly challenged. We might discover that we share the same longing for love, expression and freedom just as they do. We may uncover similarities in our fears and misunderstandings about each other. The divisive designations of “us” and “them” begin to dissolve when we connect to each other through our shared passions.

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Similarly, with yoga, the gifts of truth and unity are abundant in travel. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to disperse confusion and fear around a culture and religion that was not understood by many, including myself. Misunderstanding and assumption created fear and before long, the divide was a gaping hole of separation and judgment. At a time when it seemed standard to fear Muslims, I had a choice to either continue my inexperienced assumptions or to uncover truth for myself.

So, off I went to study Islam for several weeks in Morocco.

What I discovered as a single woman traveling solo through a Muslim country was that in fact, Muslims are human beings going about their daily lives and businesses with similar concerns, passions and motivations as myself, my peers and every other human being I’ve ever met. I shared tea and smiles with an old shop keeper in Rabat over humorous silence because neither of us spoke a common language. This man was curious, kind and gentle toward me – qualities I work to embody in myself. Next, I learned about the progress of women’s rights over dinner with a sophisticated, educated woman in Marrakesh. She was divorced, shared custody of her children and held a government position. We talked about gender roles in Morocco and women’s increasing opportunities. Then I visited a mud-brick school that tantalized my false preconceptions about education in countries outside of the States, but the school yard was filled with smiling elementary students proudly exclaiming that they spoke 3 or more (sometimes upwards to 6) languages while I humbly spoke my one. Lastly, I met a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara Desert and purchased a handmade scarf from them. Their tradition of weaving scarves was an expression of cultural passion, creatively embodied by proud people, even while living in a nomadic tent.

When I returned from Morocco, I was more connected to myself and the world around me. I had uncovered truth, dispersed assumptions and shattered boundaries in my own mind. I discarded the fear, prejudice and confusion that weighed me down and clouded my perspective of reality. The work I put into uncovering truth through travel rewarded me with a freedom from separation and a new perspective to share with everyone. My adventure in Morocco was the first important travel I did – I say important because it was not about resorts, shopping or nightlife. The purpose of that mindful travel was to uncover truth within myself and unify me with the world around me. It taught me how rewarding and fulfilling it is to explore the world and experience other cultures.

It is how we apply these lessons from yoga and travel that enriches our lives. Sharing our experiences and connecting to more people is how we unify. It is through living yoga and mindful travel that we shatter our preconceptions about ourselves and the world around us and open ourselves up to a more meaningful, authentic life.

 

 

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Sarah is the October – December Yoga Trade Travel Representative! Sarah loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel – constantly challenging herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

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The Holistic Evolution of Business Culture

This article is being graciously shared with us by Living Yoga Ambassador, Lauren Lee. You can find more inspiration at the community project she founded, ‘Raise Your Beat’.

Over the past 50 years throughout many Western cultures, social status (perceived success) was easily defined by material wealth. Whether it was a home, car, accessories for your home, clothing, jewelry (or all of the above) it was culturally accepted (and expected) to consume more, simply because we could.

(*Of course this mentality was more present in certain countries, and excluded those who rebelled and lived their lives according to their own set of rules.)

Fast forward to 2015, and there has been a drastic shift in values and perspectives. Currently our culture is redefining our relationship to ‘wealth’ and the age of mindless holistic1consumption is slowly fading.

The trend of shopping at corporate stores and buying mass manufactured products is dying out. It is now replaced by the urge to support smaller personalized shops that offer local, organic and fair trade products.

Businesses are constantly becoming more innovative, resourceful and eco-conscious with their products, priding themselves on quality over quantity and strong ethics that are aligned with their economic growth.

Along with the change in what we are buying, is the change in how we are buying. Outdoor markets and festivals boasting gourmet foods and live music are replacing air-conditioned malls with fast food courts and parking lots.

And the most interesting progression is quite possibly the transformation in our desires.

The desire to even physically own a product is instead being replaced by the ability to have access to that product.

This radical revolution from our changing desires supports a culture of business that offers new ways in how we use products.

For example: a bike, which you can rent near your flat, ride across the city, and drop off at your new destination…music, movies and media stored online, available to you on anyDSC06331 device with or without internet… experiences working abroad in exchange for accommodation and food…taxi services, cars, sleeping accommodations and land directly rented from one another.

These products are more flexible, offering more availability and affordable prices. They support us to share and network with both our local and global communities. And most important, they protect the environment and work to create a smaller carbon footprint as ultimately, fewer goods are being manufactured.

As mindful consumers, we are becoming more interested in the ‘root of the product’.

What is the true purpose behind its use (is it necessary), and how can it become a tool to enhance our lives?

Can this product become an experience and offer me more value?

What is the impact of this product on myself, my community and the Earth?

Our intentions as a culture are becoming more yogic with a better understating of our yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines), connecting to what’s truly important – access over ownership, a quality eco product over one that harms our bodies and nature, and community success over individual success.

These Yogic principals encompass multiple aspects of healthy production and consuming, and are at the heart of the evolution of many small entrepreneurs and big corporate businesses alike.

It seems the rise of yoga among the masses has begun to permeate deeper than asana with a rising in consciousness as a culture. And even in a context, which seems so far from ‘yogic’ (such as consuming) the new trends in business are implementing more holistic perspectives to sustainable and healthy options.

As a consumer, the next time you are in the market for a product, stop and think (research) which companies are offering that same product in a more user-friendly, enjoyable and eco-conscious way. Remember that you always have a choice and your lauren_bancosupport for these products will radiate far beyond buying and using them, as you will be a positive example of a mindful being for your own circle of loved ones.

 

LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures.

Lessons From the Jungle

This article is a repost by Laruen Lee, founder of RAISE YOUR BEAT. The original posting can be found HERE

A REFLECTION ON NATURE, CULTURE, & BEING

Arriving back into Mother India (after having spent a couple of years away) I have been instantly been brought back to ‘earth’. From the moment I landed, all was like a familiar dream – the chaos, the simplicity, the incredible sense of freedom and openness that jungle3permeates every cell in my body. There is something powerful about being in tropical weather and immersed deep in nature, something magical about weaving on a scooter through a family of carefree cows, and something deeply rejuvenating about walking barefoot and letting my curls soak up seawater and coconut oil.

I have spent 3 months at Lotus Yoga Retreat, nestled on a secluded eco farm Khaama Kethna, which lies in a lush valley of jungle and forest. I have felt myself get grounded, quite literally as I spent my time living in an open air hut, and my feet continuously covered in the fertile red earth. I have been spoiled with fresh foods – so fresh the chef collects it from the organic gardens and passes through the restaurant with bundles of color cradled under her bosom. I have indulged in some of the deepest sleeps of my life, falling and rising with the mysterious jungle sounds which somehow meld into one melodic rhythm. I have taught yoga to diverse and unique individuals from all over the world who leave their daily lives behind and arrive for the same universal sense of connection.

It has been an absolute retreat in all senses (for both myself and students) as modern luxuries and ‘comforts’ are stripped away, which can be a shock to the system at first, as we become more exposed, more raw and more genuine as we journey closer to freeing the mind from conditioning. As we begin this process of cleansing, it’s as if we throw away all the ‘junk’ (negative emotions, stress, ego) and layer by layer we uncover (or come back to) our true being.

This true being is our most authentic self…the part which lies within the heart center and is inherently connected to our unique purpose and life all around us.

Experiencing a foreign culture (such as India) and immersing yourself in nature both bring us closer to this place of authenticity, truth or being. 

In a country like India, life is more simple, and its accepted. The majority of the jungle2population still cook over a fire and take showers with cold water using a bucket. Many do not have a car, or use modern electronics such as toasters, refrigerators or washing machines. Most go to the vegetable market and local shops each morning to purchase their daily amount of milk and produce.

Without the need to ‘consume’, life becomes more sacred and more free. Most work to provide shelter, food and support their families. There is time for prayer, play, cooking and community –  and this is honored as a culture.

Experiencing a world and lifestyle unknown (or unnatural) is key in expanding our perspectives, appreciating our own circumstances or maybe even aid us in observation of unnecessary aspects of our own lives.

When we find ourselves in nature, we are reminded of the power of ‘prana’ or natural intelligence which surrounds us each and every moment. This prana is what moves life and it instantly connects us with this place of authenticity. 

It is why turtles return to nest their eggs in the same spot. 

It is why whales migrate thousands of miles.

It is why ants can carry up to 5,000 times their weight.

It is a seedling sprouting from the earth to follow the light.

It can be seen in a cascading waterfall.

It is the sun and moon rising.

It is the tides of the ocean.

It is the climate and seasons.

It is life and death.

It is the flow of communities and societies. 

It is the life that moves us, guides us and supports us.

It is within and around us.

 

Living in harmony with nature, washing my clothing by hand, enjoying daily morning chai before the sun rises, sweeping the leaves from the yoga shalas, lighting sandalwood incense and reciting a simple mantra of ‘love, trust, surrender’ have become my daily jungle4rituals which are simple and sweet. They have helped me to find more gratitude, devotion and love.

Of course living simply in nature and in a foreign context has its challenges, some days more than others, and when things don’t go ‘as planned’ I have found laughter to be a powerful practice.

I am working to extract the positives from living in a foreign culture (which at times feels very unnatural) and becoming aware to life’s lessons, big and small, which are found in every moment when you open your eyes.

I am grateful for this space to retreat and reconnect. To live without internet and without walls. To experience new people and places. To let go of any plans and definitions of who or what I am ‘supposed’ to be, instead urged to slow down and let go. Through this surrender I have become more clear in who I am and what my purpose is…and more awake to the pranic flow of life and beauty that is around us each and every day. I am leaving the jungle feeling blissed and blessed for this experience, and look forward (without attachment and identity) for whatever life brings.

lauren_bancoLAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures.