Yoga Awareness Meditation Retreat in The White Mountains

Yoga Awareness Meditation Retreat in The White Mountains

~ flow yoga as experiential metaphor to bring meditative awareness into the rest of our lives ~

In this one day retreat we will experiment with yoga postures and breath as awareness meditation, cultivating an increased ability to sustain presence and center ourselves at will. Developing this skill consciously together in practice will help us recall this quality of awareness when we most want to, or need to, be present in the rest of our lives.
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Starting with a short hike and meditation along the Pemigewasset River, we will then retreat to the sanctuary of The Mountain Club on Loon to integrate our meditative awareness into an indoor yoga asana practice. After lunch we will ride the gondola to the summit of Loon to practice in the forests of the White Mountains.
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This class is accessible to students of all levels. Simple postures will be offered for newer students to hold and develop awareness, while more experienced practitioners will be guided into more complex postures to refine their skill and attention once the simpler postures become easy. We will experiment to find our own unique expression of the potential of each pose.
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Bring clothing for yoga and a mat, layers appropriate for the weather outside, a towel and swimwear, and footwear suitable for light hiking. In case of inclement weather, we will utilize The Mountain Club as much as necessary and go outside as weather allows. Lunch is available at area restaurants, including The Mountain Club, or you are welcome to pack your own.
Please arrive well fed, enough to sustain you until lunch time.
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Make it a weekend retreat with spa services and discount room rates through The Mountain Club,
or with private instruction or a Thai yoga session with Denise.
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Denise practices in nature as much as possible, accessing a playfulness and deep awareness that she brings to her classes. In addition to teaching at the Mountain Club on Loon, she is the seasonal yoga instructor for the Loon Mountain Snowsports School and The Saint Anselm Cross Country Running Team. She leads yoga and meditation at The Plymouth House, a residential retreat center for drug and alcohol recovery, which has helped develop her teachings into a practical life skill that helps free us from dependence and confusion, awakening our potential through awareness and centering. She also brings yoga to festivals and events throughout New England and along the east coast. Her style derives from many traditions of movement and meditation and adapts to fit the specifics of her clientele. Denise is also available for personal and group private yoga classes and Thai yoga sessions.

Saturday August 10, 2013
9am – 5pm
The Mountain Club on Loon
Lincoln, New Hampshire
$80 – includes lift ticket

For more information or to register call 603 568 5977
or visit http://awarenessretreat813.brownpapertickets.com

deniseporterkemp.com

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The Full Pallette of Wisdom

Right now, it’s the tenth night after the nine nights of the goddess in the Indian holiday of Navaratri, see https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/navaratri-the-nine-nights-of-the-goddess/ for more explanation…

Something I’ve been experiencing in all this is that being open to the wisdom that comes to me includes being able to stay open to the things I don’t want to see, too – in myself and all around me. Without trying to block it or fix it. Or fix how I feel about it, no matter how raw it feels sometimes. Or feel too sorry for myself or others about it, either. Well, maybe a little bit at first…yet then letting that veil drop, too, and just breathing it in, letting it integrate, no matter how uncomfortable it is to sit with it.

For wisdom, truth as we are currently capable of experiencing it, doesn’t always show you the things you think you want to see. And being aligned with “truth” doesn’t always mean you get what you think you want. It – the wisdom, the truth – holds all sides of the spectrum. None cancels the other out, the beauty or the tragedy or the mundane that lies between. Fighting or ignoring just prolongs the suffering and keeps us from seeing what we actually have to work with.
So on this day that asks us to begin again, my intention is to continue to clear and sensitize and strengthen myself so that I can stay awake in all of it, as best I can. Not shutting any of it out just because I don’t want to have to see it. Observing, learning. Reorganizing when I realize I have been confused. Letting go of grasping for what’s not when I realize I’m doing it. With as little judgement as possible, beginning again. Embracing the potential of what lies before me, as best I can. Right now.
(written last night, October 24, 2012)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

Perfect for soaking up the warmth and sustenance of the sun on this crisp and golden autumn morning, as we shift from the final night, last night, and following day, today, of Laksmi, into the first night, tonight, of Sarasvati, in the Indian festival of Navaratri.  The goddess of good fortune and abundance in the Hindu pantheon, Laksmi is symbolized by the harvest and the light of the sun that nourishes us, and the color yellow.  Sarasvati, associated with purity and the color white, is the river of wisdom and inspiration that moves through us when we have cleared the path and built the channel strong enough to hold her.  This soup, both raw and pureed, is very cleansing and sustaining, as it moves easily and quickly through your digestive system and provides lots of food and nourishment in each bite without as much bulk in your stomach.  The fiber in cauliflower acts like a scrubbing brush that pushes other food through your system, the lemon juice an astringent that draws out impurities and leaves you feeling clean.  The tahini provides calcium and protein, the miso and soy sauce friendly enzymes, the avocado potassium, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats that soothe your stomach and keep your skin supple and moist in this drying time of year.  Cumin and coriander both stimulate appetite and improve digestion, and make everything more delicious!  They also balance each other as cumin is slightly warming and coriander cooling in nature.  Turmeric is also warming, and is an anti-inflammatory that relives joint pain and stimulates healing in the body.  And it imparts the golden tint to this cauliflower soup that causes even its aesthetic to reflect the blending of the golden light of Laksmi and the clear white purity of Sarasvati symbolically occurring on this day.

Enjoy!

(This recipe and some of the nutritional information is adapted from the recipe for Curried Cauliflower Soup in Brigette Mars’ amazing cookbook, “Rawsome”, which is, um, rawsome, truly…I am not raw or vegan and yet including these types of recipes in your diet can increase your nutrition and add another way of experiencing food to your repertoire of food preparation.)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

½ head cauliflower

1 avocado

Juice of ½ to 1 lemon

5 Tablespoons tahini

½ teaspoon turmeric

teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 ½ Tablespoons sweet white miso

2 or more cups water

Cut cauliflower into pieces that will fit into your food processor.  Peel and pit avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice through a strainer to remove seeds.  I use whole cumin and coriander and pulse them to a powder in a coffee grinder that I only use for spices, never coffee – coffee is too strong and will overpower the taste of all your spices.  Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust water and all seasonings to desired taste and consistency.

4 part tuning-in meditation

…can be used as a meditation, during yoga, and in the moment…

  1. Awareness inside your body – grounding yourself in your body.  Anyway that works.  Potentially – awareness radiating from the center of your body, just below your navel, all the way to the periphery of the skin – head, feet, hands, everywhere.  Simultaneously drawing awareness back from the periphery to hold the center.  Soften back into yourself.  It can go back and forth – outward, inward – and eventually, both at the same time.  Aliveness in the whole body.  Expansion and centeredness.  Balanced.
  2. Awareness of the room around you – the temperature, the atmosphere, anyone there with you.  Without having to engage or ignore, staying in your body and aware of what’s around you.
  3. Hear the sounds – without grasping to listen, let the sound come to you, in through your ears and translated on your eardrums.  Feel the sound in your body.
  4. Feel the breath breathing – as the breath comes in and fills you, you expand from the center of the chest, as the breath leaves, your body condenses back into the center of the chest.  As if you are breathed in and out of the heart, your whole body breathed like one giant lung.

All the while staying grounded in the body, eventually all four parts at the same time.  Whenever you find yourself distracted, just start over…

adapted from a practice by Parvathi Nanda Nath Sarasvati

thai yoga

thai yoga is like having yoga done for you…you relax on a soft mat in comfortable clothes while your body is moved through passive, assisted yoga postures that release tension and induce a deep, calm presence.  it originated as a form of health maintenance, meditation, and a practical application of metta offered by buddhist monks to their communities.  metta is the cultivation of respectful, friendly, personal/impersonal kindness, and an experience of interconnection without attachment.

if you are interested in learning more or having a session, message me…

waking up centered meditation

Take a few deep breaths, letting your belly expand on the inhale.  Bring your mind into a relaxed focus on your lower abdomen, as if your belly is filling with a warmth, or a light.  If you can, do this with your eyes closed for a few moments to be able to really turn inward into the sensation.  Once you get acclimated to the practice, you can do it anytime, eyes open or closed, with active deep breath or letting the breath breathe you automatically

Feel as if a warm river of sensation is moving down your legs into your feet, filling your body with the warmth, or the light, as if your body is coming back into color.  All the way down into the arches of your feet and each toe, a continuous river of warmth, of sensation, of aliveness, from your belly to your feet.  Your belly like a spring of warm water, the sensation flowing all the way up into your heart, take a few deep breaths swirling it here, and then bring the awareness up in to your face.  Softening the eye muscles, softening the jaw, allowing a very slight smile to come to the corners of the mouth.  Not as pretense, yet to relax the face.  Buddha smile.  Awareness like a warmth, a light, bathing your brain.  Awareness flowing like a warm river from the belly both into the feet and the head at the same time.  Some of the sensation flowing from your belly up into the heart pouring out through the shoulders and down the arms, through the pulse points of your inner elbows, of your wrists, and out into the sensitive palms of your hands and into each finger.  Relaxed focus grounded at the belly and lower back, the pulse of your breath expanding and contracting softly, a continuous stream of awareness flowing out into the soles of the feet, the center of your chest, the palms of the hands, the back of the neck, into the cheekbones and your eyes, the crown of the head.  Grounded at the center, whole body awake and alive with sensation.

If your eyes are closed, allow them to open on an inhale, playing with staying grounded in your body, especially with the relaxed focus at the lower abdomen, and looking out.  Rather than leaping out as you look out, staying grounded in yourself while aware of what is around you.  The lateral eye muscles, at the corners of your eyes, slightly drawing back into your face.  Mona Lisa smile.  Of inner knowing.  The sensation of looking out yet drawing back in.  As if the sight is coming forward to you.  Breath at the belly and heart.

Play with this when you first wake up in the morning while still lying in bed to awaken in every cell of your body, especially if you are still sleepy.  When you are starting or ending meditation or yoga, or any activity where it helps to be really alive and present in your body.  Play with this all of the time, when you remember.  When you feel scattered or off, ungrounded, whether from being uncomfortable and overwhelmed or when you’re feeling really, really good and starting to spin out.   Come back into yourself.  Experience it from the center.  And when you get off balance, just come back.  Over and over again.

Love.

yoga, breath and meditation for going though traumatic or painful experiences

(I just want to put in a little caveat here – these are just my distillations of what I have been taught through time and what I have been practicing myself.  I don’t claim to be an expert on trauma, to know the exact right answers or the definitive way for working with painful issues.  These are techniques that are working for me right now, as clearly as I can currently explain them.  In sharing them with others my intention is for us to all experiment with the possibilities for healing and come up with ways that work uniquely for each of us.  I keep rereading it and updating it to try and make it clearer.
 
Working with painful experiences and especially trauma of any kind can be overwhelming, and I find these practices can help with the overwhelm so I don’t have to block the experiences and can move through them, and yet each of us is different and needs a different amount of support to handle the intensity of our own experience.  Seek help as you need it, I don’t mean for this to be a stand alone self help course.  I am here to correspond to the best of my ability, if that is of use.)
 

Deep steady breath, done anytime and especially in simple yoga postures, can help calm the body’s physiological response to stress and trauma and help us steady ourselves so that we can go through what we need to go through to allow the experience to integrate.  Instead of blocking or numbing our experience in order to feel ok, we can potentially allow ourselves to feel the rush of intensity when it comes through us, and release it so that it doesn’t get stuck inside of us, without getting too swept away by the overwhelm of our emotion.  If you can, practice with a friend you feel comfortable with, so you can support each other when the emotion is strong.  You may need to cry, you may need to talk, you may need to scream, let it out – we need to release the intensity of our response to traumatic experiences so the response can move through and the experience can integrate.  Then come back to the breath, especially when you start to feel yourself getting lost in self pity or the overwhelm.  The point is not to re-traumatize ourselves but to help ourselves go through it.  You always have the choice to let yourself bump up against what is uncomfortable, or to move back away from it until you are more ready.  Having compassion for the pain, and incrementally, the strength to go through it.  These practices can be helpful for re-integrating old, unresolved traumas, as well as for getting through rough times in the moment.

It can help to start with a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, with or without sound, to release tension in the belly and remind ourselves to breathe.  Then moving into the ujjai (ooj-aye) breath, a yogic breathing exercise that when done calmly and subtly, can slow down your heart rate and nervous system, relaxing the physiological response to stress and trauma so that you are able to go through the experience as calm and aware as possible.  Take equal length and depth of inhale and exhale, expanding and contracting in the area of the lungs and heart, with a slight resonance or hum at the back of the throat at the whisper muscles.  Strict ujjai breath is mostly chest breathing, although I find it useful to also let your belly expand on the inhale, releasing tension in the belly and breathing into the fullness of the lungs.  If done aggressively for an extended period of time, the ujjai breath sometimes accentuates intensity or even anxiety.  Although if done very subtly, like a soft breeze at the back of the throat, the gentle vibration of the ujjai breath, along with the rhythmic movement of the diaphragm, gently stimulates the vagus nerve, which starts at the top of the spinal cord and connects your brain to your heart and lungs and organs of the torso.  This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms and balances your nervous system’s response to stress.  The hum also helps focus, and therefore calms, the spiraling out of the mind.

You can do this breath at any time without anyone noticing, which makes it a very useful technique for steadying yourself in the moment.  And it can be done in simple yoga postures to help release the intensity around stress and trauma so that we can feel what is coming through us, and be able to weather the overwhelm.  Instead of trying to stop our experience, we can allow the rush of intensity around the trauma to rise and release without getting swept away in our emotion.

The following postures are some possibilities to experiment with this.  The forward bending ones will especially help soothe the mind, the back-bending ones will help release tension in the chest and heart and help you get moving when you are stuck in depression.  The back-bending one on the floor can be done more gently, by just resting with a pillow or two under the hips.

          

Nadi Shodhana is another breathing technique for calming and balancing the body’s response to stress.  A simplified version of this is to bring your pointer and middle finger in towards your palm so that you have the thumb and the ring finger available.  Covering the opening of right nostril with the thumb, being careful not to squash it shut, inhale through the left nostril.  Then cover the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right.  Do this at least 5 times.  After the final exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril and then exhale through the left.  Do this the same amount of times from right to left as you did on left to right.  If you aren’t sure of the exact amount, just do your best and approximate.  Potentially doing more or longer inhales through the left nostril will calm you, more or longer inhales through the right will wake you up.  When you are done, sit for a few moments if you can and just let the breath breathe you automatically.

 

Belly breathing can be done anytime too, although laying on your back with your knees up and feet apart, knees resting against each other, one hand on the belly and one on the heart, can be particularly helpful in times of overwhelm.  This can be done with the pillow or two under the hips as well.  As you breathe in, let your belly expand first and then your upper chest and lungs.  As you exhale, let your upper chest and lungs soften and condense first and then your belly.  If this feels complicated in your body, don’t try too hard, just let the belly expand on the inhale and the belly condense back into your body on the exhale.

After awhile you can let go of all the trying and just let the breath breathe you automatically, expanding and contracting in the area of your heart.  You have set up the conditions to calm your body and your mind and now get out of the way as much as you can and let the breath breathe you.  All this is metaphor too.

When your mind wanders, instead of following it or fighting the thought, bring your mind back to the breath and the sensations of the body as anchors to keep yourself present to the experience.  So the experience can integrate.  So you can get through it.  And when the emotion, the sensation, the thoughts, the intensity arises, breathe in the sensation to fully experience whatever comes up, with as little judgement as possible.  Noticing.  Experiencing.  Allowing.  Breathe out calm support to yourself, and to the rest of us, to be able to go through what is painful.  As much as you can now, it takes time to be able to really touch the things that are difficult.  When you find yourself spinning out, come back to the breath- automatic, belly or ujjai – and help calm yourself to go through it.

Love.

(With gratitude to the teachings of Sue Jones of yogaHope, Bo Forbes of The Center for Integrative Yoga Therapeutics, Parvathi Nanda Nath Saraswati, Pema Chodron and her teaching of tong lin, Matt Howe and his teachings of vipassana meditation, and all the other teachings and practices that have informed my own practice and teachings, and Thomas Devaney for the photos)

…any comments or information to make this more useful or accurate always appreciated…